Norfolk Committee on Gaming meets with public for the first time

Posted at 3:50 PM, Dec 16, 2019

NORFOLK, Va. – On Monday, the first of two public hearings on the proposed Resort Casino kicked off.

Conceptual rendering and may not reflect final design.

The meeting was at Granby High School. The second hearing will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at Lake Taylor High School.

In September, all council members except councilwoman Andria McClellan voted to enter into an agreement that would eventually allow the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to buy land hear Harbor Park for the casino.

However, a group called “Citizens for an Informed Norfolk” has pushed back, saying they are against the way council went about the deal.

In November, they submitted a petition before Norfolk City Council to repeal the original casino ordinance. They gathered more than 3,000 signatures which was enough to force a re-vote.

If the council doesn’t budge on their original vote or chooses not to take action, a third petition could be made. If so, the group will have nine months to collect 4,000 signatures.

At a November council meeting, Mayor Kenny Alexander announced the formation of a Committee for Gaming.

According to a Facebook post from Councilman Tommy Smigiel, “I have been asked to Co-Chair the Mayor’s Committee on Gaming with Councilwoman Mamie Johnson. We will hold our first meeting prior to the first public hearing at 4:30 at Granby High School. I looking forward to continuing the conversation about casinos and other gaming issues including gray machines that are popping up all around Virginia.”

Later Monday night Councilman Tommy Smigiel said the Pamunkey Tribe will not seek federal approval. They are going the state route.

His statement said:

“Norfolk Resort Casino Breaking News:  At the Public Hearing tonight Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander announced that the proposed Pamunkey Casino would switch from going the Federal Tribal route to a Commercial Casino route.  This option was always available for the Pamunkey Tribe or City of Norfolk to consider under the original vote of the inter-governmental agreement from council.  Our City Manager Chip Filer and City Attorney’s Office are working on this amendment. After the JLARC study and realizing that the scope of the project will change the commercial route makes more sense for both the Pamunkey Tribe and the City of Norfolk.  (Senate Bill) SB1126 has a reenactment clause that has to be voted on by the General Assembly this year and could still possibly amend original legislation authorizing a casino in Norfolk.  The percent of taxes collected needs to be fair so that both localities and the state get their fair share of revenue, but without being a burden on the cost to develop the projects.  JLARC recommends 27% with 5%-7% going back to localities, however any attempt to go higher may be a detriment to Norfolk, Portsmouth and any other locality authorized to have a casino.  Another plus tonight is that this potential revenue falls under the new revenue funding formula we created for Norfolk Public Schools, so it would not be necessary to have a separate agreement on where the tax revenue should go.  Also under the original bill Norfolk citizens will still have a chance to vote on a referendum for a Norfolk Casino in November.

There is still a lot of work to do and more information to come which is why the Mayor’s Committee on Gaming will play an even more important role.  I co-chair this committee with Mamie B. Johnson and we held our first committee meeting with outstanding members this afternoon (see attached picture).  We discussed potential legislation including commercial casinos and spent a lot of time discussing the “gray machines” popping up all around our city and Virginia.  These gray machines are a free-for-all with no state laws regulating taxes.  The Mayor’s Committee on Gaming already determined that there is a need for state legislation this year to tax these machines with the money going back to the state to replace a loss of lottery funds are for the locality to collect.   I am looking forward to the continued discussions this committee will have regarding gaming.”