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Pamunkey Tribe abandons plan for temporary casino at Harbor Park, now plans nearby building

Renderings of the proposed hotel and casino next to Harbor Park in Norfolk released April 2021. (Courtesy of Headwaters Resort and Casino)
Renderings of the proposed hotel and casino next to Harbor Park in Norfolk released April 2021. (Courtesy of Headwaters Resort and Casino)

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe’s plans for its temporary casino are changing.

Originally, they’d planned to convert the space formerly used by the Norfolk Boxing Club at Harbor Park into “the Pamunkey Club.” There, patrons could gamble ahead of the opening of the full hotel-casino complex set to be built next to the ballpark.

State law lets casino managers run short-term casino operations until construction on the actual casino is complete.

The move comes after questions about whether the tribe could legally host gambling at the ballpark. The referendum approving the Norfolk casino is specific about the address where casino operations are allowed, and any temporary gambling has to happen at the same location.

The city abruptly changed the address of Harbor Park earlier this year, seemingly in an effort to allow the temporary casino there. Norfolk had already moved the boxing center out of its long-time home at Harbor Park in anticipation.

Since then, the address question has forced the tribe and their partners to find a different option.

John Thompson, a development consultant working with the tribe, told Norfolk City Council Tuesday night they now plan to build a facility on the casino property to host the temporary casino operations, between Harbor Park and the Amtrak Station.

Thompson said they’re still in the design phase but the footprint would be larger than what was planned for the stadium.

The tribe is still awaiting approval from the state’s Lottery Board. Construction hasn’t started on either the temporary casino or the larger project.

Meanwhile, construction on the Rivers Casino Portsmouth is already well under way. That’s set to open in 2023.

And out in Bristol, chips are already hitting the table. A temporary gambling operation opened there earlier this month on the site of the future Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Bristol.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

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