Pamunkey Indian Tribe Pitches Second Virginia Casino Resort, $350M Proposal Targets Richmond

Posted on: January 17, 2020, 11:00h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2020, 11:12h.

As many as five Virginia casino licenses could be issued in 2020, and the state’s Pamunkey Indian Tribe is vying for at least two of the gaming rights.

Virginia casinos Richmond resort
Virginia casinos could soon spread across the state, and that includes the Richmond capital. (Image: UVA Today)

The Native American group unveiled plans Friday for a $350 million casino resort south of downtown Richmond. The tribe says it has secured four parcels of land in the area, which totals nearly 50 acres.

The casino is earmarked for the parcel located at 1401 Commerce Road, which measures 18 acres. The property is currently occupied by offices and warehouses.

We are very excited about our plans to bring a great resort and casino to Richmond,” Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray said in a release. “Not only does this help fulfill the government’s intent to use gaming to help us secure our future, but it will also be a great economic boost for the city of Richmond and its citizens.”

The initial proposal calls for a 275-room hotel tower overlooking the James River and Richmond skyline. The resort would feature a spa, fitness center and pool, eateries ranging from high-end restaurants to fast-casual, and commercial casino floor with slot machines, table games, and potentially a sportsbook.

Billionaire Backing

The Pamunkey Tribe is a small Native America community. Today, there’s just a couple hundred tribal members. The Pamunkey’s reservation is located 25 miles east of Richmond.

The tribe’s $350 million Richmond project comes on the heels of the Pamunkeys signing agreements with the City of Norfolk to build a $200 million casino.

In order to fund the projects that, if authorized, would put the tribe on the hook for more than a half of a billion investment dollars, the Pamunkey people have partnered with Virginia billionaire Jon Yarbrough. The tribe said that, like Norfolk, Yarbrough is involved with the Richmond proposal.

Yarbrough made his fortune with Video Gaming Technologies, the company he sold to Aristocrat Leisure in 2014 for $1.3 billion.

The land at 1401 Commerce Road has an assessed value of $2.7 million. A property records search did not reveal a sale to the tribe.

The Richmond land is much cheaper than what the tribe is paying in Norfolk. Under the agreements signed earlier this week, the Pamunkey Indians agreed to pay $10,050,000 for 13.4 acres of waterfront property.

Casino Bidding

There are five Virginia casinos being considered, one each in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk. Those five cities met certain criteria set forth in a gaming study bill passed last year.

Bristol has already received two casino pitches. Hard Rock International wants to build a casino resort there that celebrates the town’s music history. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has suggested a $250 million resort near The Pinnacle commercial shopping center just north of the Tennessee-Virginia border.

Nothing can happen before the Virginia General Assembly passes another bill that comes with gaming regulations, including licensing fees, tax rates, and where the money goes. Each of the five cities would also need to hold local ballot referendums backing the casino projects.