While casino gambling is not currently legal in the state of Virginia, many cities are planning for gambling halls in the near future with the hope that the state legalizes casino gaming in 2020. Portsmouth officials have already reached an agreement with gaming firm Rush Street Gaming LLC to launch a casino if the state were to legalize it.
Norfolk and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe also have plans for a would-be casino.
At a public hearing last Monday in Norfolk, Mayor Kenny Alexander revealed sizable changes to the Pamunkey casino project deal. Alexander concluded that the original casino plan needed significant alterations after a new study by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) was conducted on the Pamunkey casino project, according to a report from The Virginian-Pilot.
The mayor’s announcement came after months of complaints from citizens that Norfolk officials failed to properly study the casino proposal. Many citizens were concerned about the repercussions of a strip of land being put into a federal trust and detached from the city’s tax rolls.
In September, all but two council members voted to enter into an agreement with Pamunkey Indian Tribe that would ultimately allow the tribe to purchase an excess of 13 acres of land near Harbor Park for the casino for $10 million.
Those concerned over the project initially launched a petition to call for a referendum on the casino but didn’t collect enough signatures (4,000) to hold a hearing.
However, another petition was launched in November that did gather enough signatures to call for two public hearings and, eventually, a re-vote by council on the deal if approved with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.
The second public hearing took place on Dec. 19. According to a tweet from journalist and independent public radio producer Pamela D’Angelo, less than 50 people showed up to the public hearing. One person spoke against the proposed casino-resort and 19 supported it, so it seems that the new deal will move forward.
Under the new project deal, the casino would operate as a commercial gambling hall instead of a tribal one, which would prevent the gaming resort from being tax exempt.
“After the JLARC study and realizing the scope of the project will change the commercial route (it) makes more sense for both the Pamunkey Tribe and the City of Norfolk,” Councilman Tommy Smigiel wrote oh his Facebook Monday night, NBC affiliate WAVY of Portsmouth reported.
Jay Smith, a Pamunkey representative, stated that the tribe does not have a problem with the new structure, saying that they are completely focused on the commercial gaming route.
The city of Norfolk and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe initially hoped for a $700 million casino property that would create 3,500 permanent jobs. Mayor Alexander said on Monday that the new casino project deal would be valued at $200 million and would provide 1,000 jobs.