The Cordish Companies Funding Norfolk Casino Opposition, Threatens Lawsuit

Posted on: October 7, 2020, 01:03h. 

Last updated on: October 7, 2020, 01:40h.

The Cordish Companies is financing “Informed Norfolk,” an organization working against bringing a new casino to Norfolk, Va.

Cordish Companies Norfolk casino Virginia
The Cordish Companies, which owns the Waterside District in Norfolk, says it’s the only qualifying casino operator for the city’s potential gaming resort. (Image: Norfolk City Council)

The political action committee is urging voters in Norfolk to oppose a ballot referendum on November 3 asking if they want to legalize commercial gambling in the waterfront city.

Cordish owns the Waterside District commercial marketplace located on the Elizabeth River. And three of its restaurants — Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse, PBR Norfolk, and Blue Moon Taphouse — have contributed to “Informed Norfolk.” Cordish is also the operator of Live! Casino Hotel in Maryland, and is building a $700 million integrated resort casino in Philadelphia and a satellite casino near Pittsburgh.

These establishments provide much-needed jobs and tax revenue and have been a big part of a thriving and vibrant downtown,” Informed Norfolk said this week in a Facebook post. “We appreciate their support!”

The City of Norfolk has partnered with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build a casino resort on 13.4 acres of waterfront land adjacent to the Harbor Park baseball stadium. The proposed location of the casino would be within walking distance of the Waterfront District via the Elizabeth River Trail.

Lawsuit Threatened

Cordish invested $40 million to overhaul and rebrand Norfolk’s iconic Waterside Festival Marketplace into the Waterside District. The destination offers various entertainment and activities, including live music, festivals, and community events.

When Cordish entered into a development agreement with Norfolk in 2013, the City Council said the company would be permitted to expand the Waterfront District into a casino if commercial gambling ever became legal in the state.

Gambling is not, however, being potentially legalized statewide in the November election. Instead, only five cities, all meeting a slew of qualifying criteria displaying economic distress, can approve of a gaming property.

Cordish argues that its contract with Norfolk mandates that it develop and operate any casino in the city.

Casino Projections

Norfolk City Council says it has a solid deal with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. The city will receive full market value for the vacant land at $750,000 per acre. The tribe will pay $100,000 annually for gaming rights, which will be given to Norfolk Public Schools.

The casino is expected to employ 2,500 full-time workers, generate an economic impact of $850 million annually, and deliver the city up to $31 million annually and gaming and sales taxes.

“As we look ahead to what will be a long economic recovery from the pandemic, this project will be a huge shot in the arm for the local economy,” said Jay Smith, spokesman for the Pamunkey Resort and Casino. “At a time now when we can likely expect to see a drop in local revenue for the City, this new stream of money — to the tune of tens of millions of dollars annually — will be an important part of the City’s ongoing ability to provide city services to its residents.”