The Pamunkey Tribe is taking a page out of Hard Rock International’s playbook by planning a temporary Norfolk casino to open later this year.
The Pamunkey Tribe plans to open HeadWaters Resort & Casino on waterfront property in Norfolk next year. However, a spokesman said the tribe is hoping to open a restaurant with a small gaming floor this year.
The move would be like the plans for the Hard Rock Casino Resort Bristol. Hard Rock plans to open a temporary gaming floor in the next few months before opening entirely in 2023.
As HeadWaters spokesman Jay Smith said in a press release:
“The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, in coordination with the development of its HeadWaters Resorts & Casino, is excited to discuss with the City of Norfolk the possibility of opening a restaurant and lounge with limited gaming. No decisions have been made at this point, but we will continue to have conversations with the city about this opportunity. We are ready to make a major investment in the stadium, create job opportunities and begin providing tax revenue to the city if this is something they would like to pursue.”
Boxing center in baseball stadium could house temporary Norfolk casino
The eventual long-term home of HeadWaters will be on waterfront property right next to Harbor Park Stadium. The park is the home of the Tidewater Tides, the triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
The stadium is home to the Norfolk Boxing + Fitness Center, as well as the Hits at the Park Restaurant. The Pamunkey Tribe is eyeing those two facilities to open a limited gaming facility.
According to the Norfolk CBS affiliate, City Manager Chip Filer said that state law allows the tribe to apply for a temporary operating permit. The permit is only valid if the temporary site is in the “footprint where the casino will be located.”
Certainly, the stadium adjacent to the eventual home would qualify as inside the footprint of the casino.
But a temporary permit would not permit full gaming. Instead, it would only allow for slot machine gambling.
Temporary Norfolk casino could give the tribe a competitive advantage
Eventually, there will be five casinos in Virginia. But until the drama with the Richmond property is settled, only four are confirmed.
Hard Rock International will open a casino in Bristol and Caesars Entertainment will have one in Danville, while the Pamunkey Tribe claimed Norfolk and Rush Street Interactive has dibs on Portsmouth.
Bristol is located about 200 miles west of Danville, while Danville is west of Norfolk by that same distance. But Portsmouth and Norfolk are neighboring cities separated only by a couple of bridges over the Elizabeth River.
As a result, Rivers Casino Portsmouth and HeadWaters Resort & Casino will be direct competitors with one another. Simply because of the proximity, the two properties will be battling over the same customer base.
Caesars Danville and Hard Rock Bristol, on the other hand, don’t have as much to worry about as they have competition near their home turf.
Rivers Casino Portsmouth is scheduled to open in early 2023. HeadWaters hasn’t broken ground yet, which makes late 2023 a more likely opening date.
In fact, the Pamunkey Tribe can’t begin construction until the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issue permits to start work.
Opening a temporary facility could eliminate some of the disadvantages of opening several months after their main competitor.
Timeline of VA Casinos
|City||Casino||Projected Opening Date|
|Bristol||Hard Rock Casino and Resort Bristol||Mid-2022 (temporary casino), 2023 (full casino)|
|Danville||Caesars Casino Resort Danville||Q4, 2023|
|Norfolk||HeadWaters Resort & Casino||Q4, 2023|
|Portsmouth||Rivers Portsmouth Casino Resort||Early 2023|
For multiple reasons, a few members of the Norfolk City Council are hesitant to allow for the temporary casino. Therefore, the Pamunkeys don’t have a projected date for opening a limited gaming facility.
If nothing changes, HeadWaters Resort & Casino will be either the third or fourth Virginia casino to open for business. It will likely open in the fourth quarter of 2023, alongside the grand opening of Caesars Danville.