The battle over a proposed casino in Norfolk, Virginia, escalated this week as parties on both sides of the argument continued to up the ante.
The Pamunkey Tribe says that its proposed resort will generate more than half a billion dollars in investment in the area, boosting the economy and creating thousands of jobs in the process. The official casino website claims it will “be among the most elite in the nation” and include a 500-room full-service convention hotel, up to seven on-site restaurants, a luxurious spa, an entertainment venue as well as indoor and outdoor pools.
However, not everyone is on board for the proposed development in Virginia with vocal opposition springing up to contest a Sept. 24 City Council vote, which green-lit the project. That meeting authorized the sale of 13.25 acres of city land to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, with a 7-1 majority voting in favor of the development, according to local Fox TV affiliate Wavy TV.
A group of local residents, including councilwoman Andria McClellan, who voted against the sale, have claimed the decision was rushed, according to a report by the Virginian-Pilot. Known as “Say No to Norfolk Casino,” the group claims that the public were not given enough information and that the city failed to perform its due diligence before committing to the sale.
In response they have organized a petition and have already gathered more than half of the 4,000 signatures they require to force a city-wide referendum contesting the decision.
The battle continued to escalate last week after a rival group launched to fight back against those who oppose the casino’s progress. Calling themselves “All in for Norfolk Casino” the group are backing the waterfront development and working to oppose those who are attempting to block it – though the Virginian-Pilot reported that the site is actually the work of the tribe’s public relations staff.
“Don’t let the naysayers block our opportunity to create jobs, generate money for schools and make our city the leading tourist destination in Virginia,” the “All in For Norfolk Casino” site says before asking readers to “join the growing list of people who are All In for Norfolk Casino.”
To add to an already complicated situation, the waters were muddied further last week after Norfolk City spokeswoman Lori Crouch promoted a form that enabled people to remove their names off of the petition opposing the casino. The city claimed that the form was developed following a series of calls from residents who had changed their minds after committing their signature to the document.
In response “Say No to Norfolk Casino” took to Facebook to claim it was an effort from the city to “discourage people from participating in our efforts to overturn the casino vote.”
That in turn prompted Mayor Kenny Alexander to order the form be taken down from the city’s website this week, according to reports. Alexander, who has been a supporter of the casino, explained the move as a show of support for residents’ democratic rights to oppose the decision.
Norfolk is not the only place in Virginia mulling over a casino project. In Bristol, on the Tennessee border, Mayor Neal Osborne said he supports the construction of a casino in a state which has none.
Another project near Portsmouth has also been floated.