Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe Planning $700 Million Mega-Resort

Virginia countryside

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is dreaming big in Virginia, looking to place its first casino in the state to the tune of $700 million.

According to the Daily Press, the tribe’s council already approved the idea. Now, they start the search for land for the $700 million facilities, which could house a spa, hotel, shows, and gaming options.

“We want partnership. We’re simply business people trying to figure this out, as an Indian tribe that wants to do its best for our people and for the commonwealth.”

While the council does not want to place the venture on its 1,200-acre reservation in King William County, the location they choose would need approval from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The land would also need to be former tribal territory.

Even without a timeline, Pamunkey Indian Chief Robert Gray and the council imagine a revenue-sharing agreement. Already, the tribe began negotiations with an investor group that helped other tribes get through strategy, agreements, and financing.

Job generator for east Virginia

  • Projections from the Daily Press put the resort itself at 4,000 employees.
  • Construction jobs would number 3,000 to 5,000.
  • With indirect economic impact at $1 billion a year, the resort projects a $200-million payroll.
  • Documents from the tribe place the room count at 1,200 for the incoming hotel.

Granted recognition by the federal government in 2015, the tribe also got the green light for pursuit of a gambling development. This came despite the fact that the state didn’t have any casinos.

Initial pushback won’t stop ‘em

This recognition initially gave the tribe access to federal grants, housing, and education. Among the competition though, if this tribe can get into the market, is MGM National Harbor.

The Washington Post reported that MGM International was one of the multiple groups who opposed the recognition. The Congressional Black Caucus also stated that the tribe prohibited marriage with African Americans.

Despite these claims, the federal government granted their request for recognition after 33 years of effort. This perk makes them a sovereign entity, and the first to receive federal recognition in Virginia in 2016.

The longstanding tribe, one of the oldest in the United States, signed its first treaty with Virginia colonizers in 1646. Reconfirmed in 1677, the tribe won over BIA standards for recognition with their historical and genealogical research.

Getting out of the gambling red tape

The National Indian Gaming Commission oversees the operation of a casino and any agreement between tribal councils and management firms.

The Daily Press reported that the tribal government can operate casino games and slots, if legal in the state, if the state negotiated a compact with the state, and if the tribal government gambling ordinance was approved by the commission chair.

Comparatively, non-casino games do not require a state compact, since the players bet against each other instead of the house. Virginia does not currently allow gambling for games of chance, but Virginia code doesn’t list card games specifically.

The Pamunkey could very well utilize this form of gaming in the state.

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Katie Callahan

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Katie Callahan is a freelance journalist, blogger and copywriter who covers everything from poker, business, education and politics to construction, startups and cybersecurity.