Norfolk City Council votes to move forward with casino

Posted at 9:54 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 17:56:05-04

NORFOLK, Va. - During their Tuesday night meeting, Norfolk City Council voted 7 to 1 in favor of a deal with the Pamunkey Native American Tribe to build a casino near Harbor Park.

All council members except councilwoman Andria McClellan voted in favor of the plan.

Tuesday, three citizens met with the Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer to discuss the steps they need to take in order to try and repeal the deal passed last night.

Schaefer said they have 30 days to get 4,000 signatures from people who don't want the casino to come to the region.

The signatures would need to be certified, given to a judge and presented to city council.  Schaefer said city council would have several options.

"They can amend. They can negotiate. They can repeal. They have all sorts of options or they can let this go on and see if there’s a referendum election," said Schaefer.

He said this is democracy at its finest.

Petitioners Ashley Barnett said she doesn’t think there have been enough public hearings, is concerned about public safety and thinks plans for a casino are moving too fast.

Supporters said this is a great deal for the city that would generate millions of dollars, bring economic development and jobs to the area. Several city council members gave reasons why they voted in favor for it and believe it would be a big win for the area.

Councilman Tommy Smigiel told the people at the meeting he had spent a lot of time researching the project and believed in it. He said city council has done their homework on this major project.

Earlier this month, the city manager announced city staffers and the tribe had reached a deal. Under the terms, the city would sell land just to the east of Harbor Park for about $10 million.

Once the casino is built, the tribe would pay the city 4% of money earned through gambling. At a minimum, the deal calls for 750 electronic gaming machines, 25 gaming tables, 150 hotel rooms and parking.

On Tuesday, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander released a statement saying in part:

“What is before the Norfolk City Council is not a stand-alone gaming facility, but a $700 million resort hotel casino and spa that will include at minimum 750 gaming machines, 25 gaming tables, a luxury hotel, at least three upscale restaurants, a 750-seat entertainment facility, and a waterfront promenade.  This will encompass 13.4 acres on the east side of Harbor Park that will be purchased from the City at its appraised value of $9,937,500.  The Tribe will be responsible for all costs associated with the construction of the project including infrastructure, flood mitigation, parking, and utility improvements.  After the sale of land closes, the Tribe will pay the City $125,000 per year until the casino opens.  After the casino opens, the Tribe will pay the City 4% of net gaming revenues with a minimum payment of $3 million per year."

Click here to read his entire statement on the proposed project.