Virginia voters approve casino gaming in four cities; Richmond still in talks

by: Rachel Keller

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MANCHESTER, Va. (WRIC) — Four Virginia cities have now approved casino gaming: Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol.

The Virginia General Assembly legalized casinos in the state earlier this year and chose five potential locations, including Richmond. The four cities that passed the referendums Tuesday will have any future properties regulated by the Virginia Lottery.

The Pamunkey Tribe will invest $500 million to build a resort on the Elizabeth River Banks. The casino will be located near the interstate as well as the Amtrak station.

Jay Smith, a spokesperson for Pamunkey Tribe, spoke about the growing enthusiasm in the city and the excitement from the tribe and Norfolk residents.

“It was not one certain part of the city,” Smith said. “We won 45 of the 48 precincts.”

Smith believes the project could give hope to thousands of businesses that closed their doors and thousands of people that lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The industry hardest hit by COVID are those that rely on tourism,” Smith said.

The tribe estimates the casino will bring 2,500 new jobs.

A gaming tax for each casino in Virginia will fund Virginia Public Schools. The Pamunkey Tribe anticipates the Norfolk location to bring in $50 million.

The tribe proposed a similar project to Richmond officials earlier this year. The project was proposed to be built on Ingram Avenue in Manchester.

Tommie Newton, a security guard with Private Security Solutions, works in the Manchester area. Newton said he welcomes a casino in the Richmond area because of new potential job opportunities.

“Whenever you have a large entity like that, you’ll have other businesses jump on it,” Newton said. “Almost like when you have a hippopotamus. You see those little animals lying on a hippopotamus, so everybody gets to feed off that as well. They’re going to need hotels. They’re going to need places to eat.

“You’ll have extra parking here so nobody will interfere with your traffic and it’s an industrial park so you won’t be bothering the residents that live inside the city.”

According to Smith, although the Pamunkey Tribe has purchased land in Manchester, they are open to building in other locations in the city.

In February, Richmond City Council Members shared their support for a casino with some opposition. The city will be provided a draft later this fall and will get public input.

The tribe is working to break ground on Norfolk’s casino early spring of next year. The project is set to open in 2022.


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