The Pamunkey Indian Tribal Gaming Authority has named an executive vice president of gaming and resort operations.
Rodney Ferguson will start his new role April 12, according to a news release from Pamunkey Indian Tribe spokesman Jay Smith.
Ferguson will be in a senior leadership role for the planned Norfolk Resort and Casino in Virginia, which has the potential of breaking ground this year, and for gaming and resort operations for the tribal gaming authority.
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The Pamunkey Indian Tribe in April — when the application period opens — will submit its application to the Virginia Lottery Board for casino construction in Norfolk. It also has submitted a proposal for a potential casino resort in Richmond, where it also owns land.
The Virginia General Assembly approved legislation for casino development — dependent on passing referendums by each city — in 2020.
Last November, Norfolk voters approved the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to develop a $500 million casino resort in the city on 13.4 acres along the Elizabeth River near Harbor Park in downtown Norfolk.
The venue is slated to include a 300-room hotel, spa, restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools, an entertainment venue, and gaming space that includes slot machines and table games.
Richmond voters will get a chance to approve a casino this November.
Experience in Casino Gaming
Ferguson, a Virginia State University graduate, has more than 30 years of commercial and tribal gaming and resort experience, according to the release. He stepped down this week as the CEO and general manager at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he had worked since 2016.
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His role in Milwaukee included overseeing the day-to-day operations, growth strategies and developing a Tribal Career Development Program, the release states.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe previously expressed it will create a Minority Outreach and Hiring plan, which will focus on hiring those local to Norfolk and those from minority groups.
“I am honored the Tribe has put their trust in me to bring their vision of a premier destination resort and casino to an area I know well,” Ferguson said in the release. “It feels great to return home to Virginia and Hampton Roads.”
He also worked for several resorts in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the early 1980s, the release said.
“The Tribe and the Gaming Authority could not be more excited to welcome Rodney to our team,” Tim Langston, chairman of the Pamunkey Indian Tribal Gaming Authority, said in the release. “He brings decades of experience to our Norfolk casino and understands the mission of our Tribe and our goal of bringing a world-class casino to the region and investing back into the community.”
Timeline for Casinos Opening
The Lottery Board passed emergency casino regulations, which included operator fees and licenses, in February. They will have to be approved by Gov. Ralph Northam in April.
Three other Virginia cities – Bristol, Danville and Portsmouth – also passed referendums in November for casino resort development.
The estimated timeline for casinos to open in Virginia is late 2022 or early 2023.
Richmond Casino Proposals
The six Richmond casino proposals, submitted at the end of February, are up for review until the city council selects one to put on the ballot for November.
The proposal by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is a $350 million project for a 300-room hotel, spa, rooftop pool, several restaurants and event space.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe’s reservation is on 1,600 acres along the Pamunkey River in King William County — near both cities — and claims Pocahontas as one of its ancestors. It was the first tribe granted federal recognition in Virginia, in 2016, allowing it to pursue economic development opportunities to sustain its viability.
“When we started our national search, we had no idea that the road for this important position would lead us right back to Hampton Roads,” said Robert Gray, chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. “[Ferguson] understands the business and he understands the community. We couldn’t have found a better combination of talent and integrity.”