HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk

HeadWaters Resort and Casino is expected to have an annual economic impact of $850 million once it opens a fully-developed casino in 2024 or 2025. In the meantime, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe continues to work with construction crews to open a temporary casino in 2023 or 2024.

Norfolk was one of four cities to approve Virginia casino construction in 2020. However, the project’s development has been slowed by delays, including clashes between the Pamunkey tribe and the city of Norfolk.

Assuming this gets smoothed over, look for HeadWaters Resort & Casino to go up on a 13.4-acre area located on the banks of the Elizabeth River. The temporary casino will go up near Harbor Park Stadium, home of baseball’s AAA Norfolk Tides. Developers will eventually swap out the structure for a full-scale $500 million gaming and resort destination.

Well before Virginia casino gambling was legalized, Norfolk operators chose the Pamunkey Tribe as its preferred casino partner. In November, 65% of Norfolk voters supported a referendum formally approving the project.

Norfolk Casino key launch dates

Early-December 2020: Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk election results certified by the Secretary of State,

May 2022: Norfolk officials approve a temporary casino license at Harbor Park, home of the AAA Norfolk Tides.

July 2022: The Pamunkey Tribe changes plans. Instead of a temporary casino inside the stadium, HeadWaters will build the structure within the footprint of the permanent casino instead.

July 2023: Casino and resort planners submitted updated information to the city board for approval.

HeadWaters Resort & Casino plans

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe will construct HeadWaters Resort & Casino near the Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium.

The Pamunkey Tribe plans to invest $500 million into the project. The casino will have 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games and a sportsbook. Additionally, the casino resort with have:

  • 300 hotel rooms
  • Live music and entertainment venue
  • Bars and restaurants with a steakhouse, sports bar, seafood and international options
  • Indoor and outdoor pools
  • Spa and fitness center

The resort will be near Norfolk’s popular and revitalized Waterside District on the Elizabeth River, which is a tributary of Chesapeake Bay.

Tennessee billionaire and casino-gaming veteran Jon Yarbrough has teamed with the Pamunkey Tribe on the project.

Norfolk Casino’s impact on the community

HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk will create 2,000 temporary construction jobs. Additionally, the casino will fill 2,500 permanent, full-time positions as it nears opening. A temporary casino will open in 2023 or 2024.

In addition to a boost in tourism, the City of Norfolk contends Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk will bring the following benefits:

  • Much-needed revenue to the city
  • The ability to diversify the economy, both locally and regionally
  • Higher wages and lower unemployment
  • Increased hotel and convention capacity
  • A continued focus on waterfront revitalization efforts

Norfolk Casino Resort timeline of events

July 2023: Casino and resort organizers submit updated plans to the city board for approval. The plans include two phases of construction that would each take about a year.

July 2022: The Pamunkey Tribe and Norfolk announce plans to open a temporary casino just east of Harbor Park Stadium.

May 4, 2021: Pamunkey Indian Tribe officials announce the formal name of the new Norfolk resort: HeadWaters Resort & Casino.

November 2020: Nearly two-thirds of voters formally approve the Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk casino referendum and greenlight the half-billion-dollar project.

September 2020: The All In for Norfolk Casino Committee officially kicks off and campaigns to bring a casino resort to the southeastern Virginia city.

July 2020: Norfolk, along with Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth, received initial approval for the Pamunkey casino project from the Virginia Lottery. There is another, more formal review, but the Lottery won’t take that deep dive until the referendum vote approves the property.

May 2020: The City Council confirmed its intention to work with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe as its preferred casino partner. Additionally, the council was forced to reconsider selling land to the Tribe.

If the previous deal went through, the land would have become sovereign tribal land. It would not have been subject to taxation or city services. The new deal ensures the land would not become sovereign land and the City of Norfolk would receive tax revenue to benefit its community.

January 2020: The City of Norfolk and The Pamunkey Indian tribe came to a new agreement, and the tribe signed a deal to purchase land to build the casino resort.

November 2019: An opposition group gathered enough signatures to force the City Council to reconsider selling the land to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

September 2019: The Norfolk City Council voted to sell land to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and allow them to build their first land-based casino. The plans called for a resort casino near Harbor Park.

About the Pamunkey Indian Tribe

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe became a federally recognized tribe on July 2, 2015.

The reservation is located near the Chesapeake Bay on the north side of the James River, approximately 90 miles northeast of downtown Norfolk. It is one of two original reservation lands assigned from a treaty with the English colonial government.

The Pamunkey Indian tribe has been planning for a casino for nearly three decades.

Pamunkey Casino Resort FAQs

Residents went to the polls on Nov. 3, 2020, to vote on the Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk project referendum. A simple majority of voters were required to vote yes for the project to move forward, and they easily reached the threshold with 65% of ballots cast in support of the project.

There is no definite date for the opening of the new casino in Norfolk. They have set an early 2023 launch date for a temporary casino.

Initially, the plan was for the Pamunkey Casino in Norfolk to be on sovereign tribal land. Opposition to the plan grew, and the Norfolk City Council was forced to reverse course. As such, the casino will not be on tribal land and instead will be subject to the taxes and regulations set forth by VA state law.

We know from the initial plans provided to the Norfolk City Council that the casino will have 3,000 slot machines and 150 table games. Casino customers can expect to see many of their favorite games from other casinos here in Norfolk.

The VA sports betting laws allows for one sports betting licenses per casino. With the popularity of sports betting across the nation, it is probable the Pamunkey Casino will open a sportsbook somewhere on its casino floor.