A real estate developer has been quietly backing a group spearheading Norfolk casino opposition ahead of a voter referendum.
The reason? That developer wants to open a casino of its own in the Virginia city.
Cordish Companies operates the Waterside District in downtown Norfolk. It’s also now a supporter of the Informed Norfolk group’s “Vote NO Norfolk Casino” campaign.
The effort opposes the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and the City of Norfolk’s plans to build the $500 million Norfolk Resort and Casino.
Cordish, which operates casinos in other states, is obviously not anti-casino. It’s just anti- this casino, which is clearly competition.
Voters can formally greenlight the project on Election Day on Nov. 3.
Unmasking the Norfolk casino opposition
As WAVY.com first reported, Cordish Companies’ involvement came to light from a Facebook post.
On Tuesday, Informed Norfolk, a grassroots citizen group and political action committee, divulged it has received help from Baltimore-based Cordish Companies and the Washington, DC-based Red Banyan Public Relations. Cordish has an ongoing monthly retainer agreement with Red Banyan.
According to the Facebook post, the PR firm has contacted media outlets and conducted research on behalf of Informed Norfolk. They did so via $2,880 of donated services, according to the post.
Informed Norfolk is a grassroots effort —citizen-organized and citizen-led — to shine light on the flawed and…
Posted by Votenocasinonorfolk on Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Three Cordish-owned restaurants in the Waterside District have also contributed to the campaign, as the post noted:
- Blue Moon Taphouse
- Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse
- PBR Norfolk
Cordish executives reportedly have threatened to sue Norfolk over the city’s contract with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which was named its preferred casino partner in May.
A Cordish-owned casino in Norfolk?
If the referendum is successful, the Pamunkey tribe plans to build its resort on the banks of the Elizabeth River next to Harbor Park baseball stadium.
That’s a short walk from the Waterside District.
Additionally, the potential Norfolk casino could really cut into Waterside’s business. After all, they would be competing for the same dollars. The Pamunkey casino would have its own bars, restaurants, and other entertainment options. Plus, it would have the added lure of a casino, sportsbook, hotel, spa, and pool.
Cordish execs, though, argue that they already have an agreement with the city with casino language in it.
As part of its $40 million deal to redevelop the Waterside District in 2017, Cordish has argued, it was promised it could expand the complex to include a casino if VA legalized casino gaming.
The commonwealth formally approved casinos and sports betting earlier this year, and five chosen Virginia cities will now vote on casino referendums. However, Cordish, which also has casino deals in Pennsylvania and Maryland, is still no closer to its own VA casino.