The Pamunkey Indian Tribe were among the group of tribes led by Chief Powhatan in southern Virginia, and while they may have lost their lands in the 1700s, they are set to get some back as they hope to open Virginia’s first casino just across the Bay in Norfolk.
Note: The Pamunkey Indian Tribe also claims Pocahontas among its lineage.
Pamunkey Indian Tribe spokesman Jay Smith said the tribe is exploring about 20 acres along the Elizabeth River between the Tide’s baseball stadium and an Amtrak station near Norfolk’s downtown. Negotiations are already underway with officials in Norfolk.
“After a long process to find the perfect site for our resort and casino, we believe we have found that location on the banks of the Elizabeth River in Norfolk,” Gray wrote in a letter to Alexander on Tuesday. “From day one, when we first made it known that the tribe would be considering a resort with a gaming component, we said that we would only go to a locality that welcomes us. Norfolk has done just that.”
The Pamunkey announced plans earlier this year to build a $700 million resort and casino in its ancestral region. The tribe says that area includes central Virginia near Richmond and stretches down to the Hampton Roads region, where Norfolk is located.
Gray said in a statement that “just as this area played an important role in the tribe’s past, I believe that Norfolk will play an even more important role in the Pamunkey Tribe’s future.”
The Pamunkey were among the few tribes that held onto their reservations. It still has about 1,200 acres (485 hectares) outside Richmond.
In 2015, the Pamunkey became the first tribe in Virginia to receive federal recognition from the Department of Interior. Smith said the status allows the tribe to operate casinos without approval from the state of Virginia, which currently has none.
Nearly 240 tribes operate casinos in more than half of U.S. states under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Smith said the games in the proposed Norfolk casino and resort would offer slots as well as the usual variety of table games, including poker and black jack.
The proposed casino and resort project still must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Smith said. Among the factors the bureau will consider is whether the tribe is indeed proposing its casino on ancestral lands.
He said the resort and casino would create thousands of jobs and have an economic impact of more than $1 billion a year.
Casinos are currently illegal under state law. But Virginia lawmakers have shown a greater willingness to discuss expanding gambling in recent years.