Things might finally be getting into full swing for Norfolk’s HeadWaters Resort & Casino. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe submitted its Development Certification Application to the city of Norfolk last week, marking a significant step toward becoming the next Virginia casino after years of back-and-forth.
The tribe now awaits review from the city’s Architectural Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council. These reviews should move relatively quickly, with a decision expected sometime in August.
Phased opening could debut HeadWaters Casino in 2024
HeadWaters Resort & Casino is a partnership agreement between the Pamunkey tribe and the city of Norfolk. Plans on the Virginia casino resort have been in the works for years.
New plans for the HeadWaters Resort & Casino ditch the temporary building, instead focusing on a permanent home that will include a 90,000-square-foot casino, 300-room hotel, pool and entertainment venue.
The casino project dates back to November 2020, when it was approved through a voter referendum. Previous plans for a temporary location fell through last year. However, the Norfolk City Council recently approved an agreement with the Norfolk Tides baseball team that included several allowances for a casino on 5.28 acres of land adjacent to the team’s stadium, Harbor Park.
To expedite the casino’s opening, construction will take place in phases, starting with the casino. The second phase will include the remainder of the resort, a project that will take 18-24 months to complete.
If construction begins later this year, the casino could open in 2024, with its full-scale resort ready in 2025.
Virginia casino economy grows
Rivers Casino Portsmouth opened in January as Virginia’s first full-service casino. Hard Rock Bristol and Caesars Danville have temporary casinos. Both are expected to open their permanent facilities in 2024.
HR Bristol opened in July 2022, while Caesars became the third facility to open in mid-May. Caesars should overtake Rivers as Virginia’s top revenue producer in June, its first full month.
When HeadWaters opens, it will become the fourth casino in Virginia. A fifth is expected to open in the coming years in the capital city of Richmond.
May resulted in $45 million in adjusted gross revenue for casinos. By the time all five casinos open their doors, monthly numbers should be above $100 million, bringing tens of millions in new monthly revenue to the state.
Will Virginia online casinos follow?
Virginians have already seen sports betting and retail casinos become legalized this decade. Now, the question begs, when will online casinos enter the equation?
Both verticals have brought millions to the state in additional tax revenue, and online casinos would do more of the same.
Other legal markets, even those as small as neighboring West Virginia, generate tens of millions in monthly revenue at a 15% tax rate. States like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan see well over $100 million each month, a number Virginia could eclipse, too, with its population of 8.6 million.
As of now, no movements exist to legalize online casinos in Virginia. Hopefully, legislators will pay attention to other states’ successes and capitalize on the in-state opportunities to do the same.
Until then, the handful of soon-to-be retail casinos will have to suffice.