Norfolk division of Hampton Roads Chamber backs Pamunkey resort-casino on November ballot

Business

A rendering of the Pamunkey Indian Tribes proposed Hotel and Casino next to Harbor Park in Norfolk.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — With a referendum on the ballot and Election Day now just a few days away, one local organization is announcing its full support of the Norfolk resort-casino project backed by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

The Norfolk Division Board of the Hampton Roads Chamber on Friday announced its support of the proposed $500-million casino and urged voters to “vote yes” on the Nov. 3 referendum.

“We look forward to engaging in the development of a project that can potentially not only benefit the City of Norfolk’s economy, but one that can be seen as a model of sustainable waterfront development,” wrote Georgie Marquez, Norfolk Division Board chair, in a prepared statement in a news release.

If approved, the resort-casino would be located on 13 acres next to the Norfolk Tides’ Harbor Park. It would include 3,000 slots, 150 table games, a 300-room full-service hotel, steak and seafood restaurant, sports bar and grill, cafe, spa and 2,500-seat entertainment venue.

However, the project has also faced opposition.

A group opposed to Norfolk’s proposed casino, “Informed Norfolk,” has cited reasons ranging from effects on the environmental and small businesses, to confusion about various parts of the deal.

The casino could attract more than six million visitors each year, and have a $754-million and $850-million annual total economic impact in Norfolk and the state, respectively, the board said.

The Norfolk Division Board said that the facility would pay local and state taxes and payroll taxes, as well as a newly-created gaming tax. The gaming tax could generate about $50 million each year for public schools in Virginia.

Local revenue for the facility could be between $30 and $40 million annually for the City of Norfolk, the Norfolk Division Board said. City staff said earlier this month that they estimate annual tax revenue will range from $24.8 to $44.5 million, depending on the final scope and scale of the project.

The project would also create 2,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs. The biggest chunk of the jobs will be in gaming operations, which will pay anywhere from $60,000 to $75,000 a year. The other permanent jobs range from a valet in the $30,000 to 45,000 range, to surveillance, IT and finance positions that will earn up to $75,000 a year.

The Pamunkey tribe also said it aims to have 90 percent of workers be local to Norfolk and the surrounding area, and 50 percent minority.

A developer in Portsmouth is also proposing to build a resort-casino, which would have a 400,000-square-foot gaming and entertainment facility, a 3,000-seat performance venue, restaurants and meeting space, a 3,000-space parking garage, four-star hotel, 30 restaurant and retail outlets and a movie theater.

From the beginning, there has been skepticism that two casinos built so close together could also both be successful

In order for the $500 million project to move forward, voters must select “yes” on the referendum during the election. If Norfolk citizens vote yes, the groundbreaking for the casino could start next year.

“I’m so pleased to have the support of business – both large and small – for our project,” said Robert
Gray, chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. “I know that this project will be a boost for the Tribe, a boost for the community and a boost for Hampton Roads businesses. The positive economic ripple effect will be felt well beyond Norfolk. I want to thank the Hampton Roads Chamber for their endorsement and look forward to working with them to further strengthen businesses in the region.”


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