HeadWaters Submits Revised Site Plan for Tribal Casino in Norfolk

HeadWaters Submits Revised Site Plan for Tribal Casino in Norfolk

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe and its development team have once again submitted another preliminary site plan to the City of Norfolk for their HeadWaters Resort & Casino project. The tribe and its developers have run into strong resistance from the city after submitting site plans in the past for the $500 million casino.

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The latest plans, submitted on Oct. 20, follow “several months of productive meetings between the city and the tribe to keep the process moving forward,” HeadWaters Resort & Casino said in a press statement Wednesday.

Initially, a temporary casino was proposed while construction of the permanent facility was ongoing. That idea was scrapped in June and changed to building the casino in two phases. In July, Norfolk city officials asked to meet with members of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe before they presented their two-phase construction plan to the Architecture Review Board (ARB). This move halted the tribe from obtaining a Development Certificate to begin construction in the initial phase.

The state approved select casino sites in 2020. Virginia sports betting became legal in 2021.

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HeadWaters Moving Forward After Delays

After delaying the tribe’s meeting with the ARB in July, the Chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Robert Gray, said the city had a change of direction and desire to reduce the land they had to build on.

In a press release this week, HeadWaters said the new preliminary site plan describes the complete development and outlines two stages of construction for the casino. “While the tribe plans to build the project in two consecutive phases, the application process will be done once for the entire resort and casino.”

The submittal of the preliminary site plan in October initiates the process of obtaining the final site plan approval necessary to start construction of the project. Although the state is working toward building retail casinos, there are no legal Virginia online casinos. The tribe plans to file an application for final site plan approval and an application for a Development Certificate prior to Dec. 11, which will enable the applications to be considered by the Norfolk ARB in January and considered by the Planning Commission in late January, followed by the city council hearing the applications in February.

Construction to Start Upon Approval

HeadWaters intends to start construction as soon as possible after the applications are approved and permits granted.

“Our team has been meeting routinely with city staff to review the project plans and discuss the development timeline,” said Gray. “We want to get this project up and running as soon as possible to start generating revenue for our tribe, for the other recognized Virginia tribes that will benefit from this project, and for the City of Norfolk, its citizens and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

HeadWaters Resort & Casino won city approval with an overwhelming majority of residents voting in favor of the project in November 2020. Once fully operational, the project is anticipated to create thousands of jobs and provide tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue for the city, as well as generating nearly a billion dollars in annual economic impact for the area.

Five cities in Virginia were approved to develop casinos based on legislation passed in 2020. Three of the five cities have casinos open and operating today. Hard Rock Bristol Casino opened a temporary facility in July 2022, Rivers Casino Portsmouth opened in January 2023 and Caesars Virginia’s temporary Danville Casino — which will include a Caesars Sportsbook Virginia retail location — opened in May 2023.

In September, the three locations combined generated over $51.9 million in adjusted gross revenue, according to the Virginia Lottery’s monthly report on casino gaming activity. The state collected over $9.3 million in taxes from the three locations during the month. A fifth casino in Richmond was approved by the same state legislation in 2020 but was voted down by residents during a casino referendum in November 2021. But Richmond residents will get another shot at voting on the casino next week during the Nov. 7 elections.

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Keith Stein is a Virginia-based writer for BetVirginia.com who covers sports betting and casinos.

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