State Study of Potential Casinos Raises Concerns for Pamunkey Tribe and City of Norfolk

Nov 26, 2019

Earlier this year, the city of Norfolk voted to sell waterfront property to the Pamunkey Tribe in the tribe's latest effort to build a casino.

But a new state report on gaming in Virginia has raised concerns for one city official and the tribe.

In September, Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan was the lone dissenter when the city voted to sell 13 acres of waterfront property along the Elizabeth River. She said she was neither for or against the sale, but wanted the council to have more information on the deal before making a decision.  "After having read the JLARC report, I have more questions now than I've ever had."

Credit AP Photo / Wayne Parry

The Pamunkey said the tribe has its own concerns about the report's recommendations to the General Assembly. Tribal spokesman Jay Smith said it may put them on equal footing with a commercial out-of-state casino operator looking to turn a profit.  "The Pamunkey are not pursuing gaming for the sake of gaming," Smith explained, "they're pursuing gaming for the sake of financial independence so they are not having to be reliant on federal government programs and so they can provide a better life for their members."

Meantime, a group that opposes the sale is submitting a petition with more than 3,000 signatures asking the city council to reconsider the sale and hold public hearings. McClellan said the council needs to take its time and acquire more information before taking another vote on the sale.  "If this is a good deal and it is the best deal for Norfolk, it should withstand the light of day."

The city council plans to hold at least two public hearings possibly next month.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.