HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk

Well before Virginia casino gambling was legalized, the City of Norfolk chose the Pamunkey Indian Tribe as its preferred casino partner.

Together, the City and the Tribe chose a 13.4-acre area located on the banks of the Elizabeth River to house the new HeadWaters Resort & Casino.

In November, 65% of Norfolk voters supported a voter referendum that formally approved the project.

Norfolk Casino key launch dates

After June 1: Submit preferred casino partner information for preliminary review by the Virginia Lottery

Aug. 14: Deadline to order referendum for the General Election

Nov. 3: General Election

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

April 2021: Officials can apply for its casino operator license with the Virginia Lottery. Approval could take up to one year.

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.

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

Norfolk Casino’s impact on the community

HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk will create 2,000 temporary construction jobs as part of an anticipated groundbreaking in 2021. Additionally, the casino will fill 2,500 permanent, full-time positions as it nears opening, which could be in 2023.

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

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

When was the vote on the Pamunkey Casino referendum?

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.

When will the Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk open?

There is no definite date for the opening of the new casino in Norfolk. In April 2021, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe can even apply for its operator license. A late 2022 or early 2023 casino launch date seems the most likely.

Will the Pamunkey Casino Resort in Norfolk be located on tribal land?

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.

What type of casino games will the Pamunkey Casino Resort have?

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.

Will Pamunkey Casino have sports betting?

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.