Q&A with Jay Smith, Spokesman for Pamunkey Indian Tribe

Q&A with Jay Smith, Spokesman for Pamunkey Indian Tribe

Eastern Virginia might have two casinos owned by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Already in the works is a $500 million casino on 13.4 acres planned along the Elizabeth River waterfront in Norfolk. A proposal for a $350 million project on nearly 25 acres was submitted to the city of Richmond, just miles from the Tribe’s reservation near King William County, in late February.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe was the first in Virginia to be granted federal recognition status. It was celebrated in 2018.

The tribe was one of many met by settlers to Jamestown in 1607, and Chief Powhatan, leader of 30 tribes, was Pocahontas’ father.

Virginia legislation in 2020 paved the way for casino development and brought sports betting to the state in January.

We talked with the tribe’s spokesman Jay Smith about the casino projects in Virginia.

VirginiaIsForBettors (VIFB): How are plans shaping up for the April application date to the Virginia Lottery Board? Is the timeline still relatively on track for groundbreaking this year?

Jay Smith: While the tribe awaits its casino operators license from the Virginia Lottery, plans have been moving forward with the design of the Norfolk resort and casino. We have announced our award-winning design team of HKS and Baskervill, and look forward to unveiling the design later this spring and breaking ground shortly thereafter.

VIFB: What made the tribe choose Norfolk and Richmond to place casinos?

JS: Over the past hundred centuries, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe has lived, fished, hunted, farmed and traded with other Tribes throughout the tidal waters of eastern Virginia — from what is now Richmond to the Chesapeake Bay. That history and the tribe’s ties to Norfolk made the announcement of a Norfolk casino all the more exciting. Given the tribe’s ties to Richmond, it was just a natural fit to seek to open a casino in Richmond as well.

Economic Impact

VIFB: What economic impact does the tribe hope to have for the cities and for the tribe?

JS: The tribe isn’t interested in getting into the gaming industry simply for the sake of gaming. Gaming is a vehicle to provide a solid foundation and future for the tribe and lift up the communities in which they operate casinos. For tribe members it means greater access to jobs, educational opportunities, quality healthcare, better housing and improved infrastructure at the reservation.

And for Virginia and the localities of its casinos, it means new revenue to improve schools, build roads, provide housing and use to better the lives of their citizens. It also means new career opportunities for thousands of Virginians looking to build a better life and provide for their families.

VIFB: If you could, please share some details about the Casino Minority Outreach and Hiring Plan, and why it is a part of the operating plan?

JS: The tribe’s Minority Outreach and Hiring Plan is designed to provide equal opportunities to potential vendors and employees who are members of traditionally disadvantaged groups and to develop a workforce that reflects the diversity of the Norfolk community. The tribe will implement this plan through proactive community outreach, consistent stakeholder engagement, and robust recruitment and training to ensure they have identified qualified hard-working individuals to join the team. Key goals of the plan include:

  • 90% of the Norfolk Resort & Casino workforce be residents of Norfolk or designated surrounding localities.
  • 50% of the Norfolk Resort & Casino workforce be comprised of individuals from minority groups.

The tribe has announced a similar plan for its Richmond casino should the City move forward with that project.

VIFB: What are some highlights of the architect's plan for the Norfolk casino?

JS: Final design details are still being ironed out, but the Norfolk resort and casino is going to redefine the Norfolk bank of the Elizabeth River. Perched next to Norfolk’s Harbor Park and towering above the river, the resort and casino will feature a luxury hotel with several restaurants, a spa and fitness center, swimming pool and all of the other amenities you would expect from a world-class resort.



Andi Petrini is a Virginia-based freelance journalist for BetVirginia.com. She has nearly 20 years of experience in newsrooms in Virginia and North Carolina, and has been a team editor for sports, news and features. She also led the internship program at the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.), and was a member of Associated Press Sports Editors.

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