Richmond, Virginia will finally have casino gambling, bringing an end to its century-long resistance to the idea.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has been designated as the preferred casino partner for the City of Richmond. Richmond is one of five casino host cities that are approved to offer casino gambling. It joins:
Although the other four cities all voted in favor of casinos in November 2020, Richmond elected to have its casino referendum as part of 2021 Election Day.
In January, the tribe announced it purchased or is in the process of purchasing four separate land parcels to house its casino. Three of the properties are at Ingram Avenue at Commerce Road and total 36 acres. The fourth property is on Jefferson David Highway close to Walmsley Boulevard. The 13 acres in that location will eventually house a training center for the Tribe.
The Tribe is planning to apply to the US Department of the Interior for approval to place the land into trust, making it sovereign territory.
If approved, the City of Richmond will not benefit from tax revenues generated by the casino.
However, the tribe plans to reinvest profits locally. They feel that it’s their responsibility as the native Virginians to do something that will benefit the residents of the state.
The Pamunkey Indian tribe plans to invest at least $350 million into the Richmond Casino Resort project and estimates that their casino will draw approximately 4 million gaming enthusiasts to their casino each year.
The proposed project will include:
Below is a rendering of the project from the Washington Post.
The other casino host cities will hold referendums on the 2020 General Election to approve casino gambling in their community. Richmond, however, plans to hold its referendum in 2021.
After June 1: Richmond officials can submit their preferred casino partner information for preliminary review by the Virginia Lottery
August 2021: Deadline to order a referendum for the General Election
November 2021: General Election
Early December 2021: Election results certified by the Secretary of State
After results are certified: Pamunkey Casino Richmond official will be able to apply as soon as the Secretary of State certifies the results. The application process could take up to one year.
There still remains an issue when it comes to whether or not the Virginian residents even want a casino in their neighborhood. The tribe is seeing some signs of opposition.
The chief of the Pamunkey tribe remains upbeat about the project.
“We are very excited about our plans to bring a great resort and casino to Richmond.”
The project will provide an economic boost to the citizens of Richmond. The Tribe plans on gaining community support through the creation of jobs and contributing to the community.
The Pamunkey Indian tribe estimates the project will create 1,000 construction jobs and casino jobs for 1,500 people.
After the completion of the construction, they are planning to transform the property originally dedicated to the training center into a health clinic, grocery store, and an added community resource.
Jay Smith, spokesman for the Tribe said,
“We have extreme confidence that we would get a favorable quick review on our application since most of the legwork was already done when we applied for federal recognition.”
COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the local, state and federal economies.
When asked about the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the plan, the tribe assures that the coronavirus has not altered any plans and still intends on investing at least $350 million into the new casino resort.
Unlike its casino in Norfolk, The Pamunkey Indian tribe can move forward with its plans to open a casino regardless of the legislative outcome if the Interior Department approves its application. That process could take several years.
If it does, it will become the only tribe with gaming rights in Virginia because of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act.
The other four host cities will hold their referendums this year. The Richmond casino project referendum, however, will be on the November 2021 General Election ballot.
The Pamunkey Casino Resort project referendum must pass by a majority of votes in order to open its casino. It has options if it doesn’t pass, however.
The Tribe does intend to apply to have its land placed in federal trust. If approved, it would become a sovereign land. After approval, it would need to establish a compact with the state.
While the process would likely take several years, it would give the Pamunkey Tribe the ability to offer casino gambling on its sovereign land without voter approval.
It is way too early in the process for speculation on a date, mainly because the referendum isn’t even being voted on until November 2021. The Pamunkey Casino Resort Richmond could possibly be open sometime in 2024.
If you look at the plans for the Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk, you can see the Tribe plans to invest heavily in slot machines. You can expect something similar in Richmond. Additionally, casino customers can expect to see table games, a poker room and a sportsbook.
Since each of the five casinos has the option for a sports betting license, it would not be surprising to see a sportsbook at Pamunkey Casino.
Initially, the answer is no. But the Tribe does plan to apply to the Department of the Interior to place the casino project land in trust. That process could take several years, though. So initially, the casino would be governed by state laws.