A conceptual rendering of a possible Pamunkey Tribe gaming resort in Norfolk, Virginia. Signs of the city's Naval shipyard can be seen in the background. Image: Pamunkey Tribe

Pamunkey Tribe willing to operate gaming facility under state law

The Pamunkey Tribe is open to options as it pursues a gaming facility in Virginia.

The tribe plans to submit a land-into-trust application "in the coming months" to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But Chief Robert Gray also said the tribe is willing to operate a casino under state, rather than federal, law.

“While the Pamunkey Tribe believes the implications of expanded gaming on this scale may benefit from further consideration and study, if the state is ready to move forward, so is the tribe,” Gray said in a press release on Tuesday.

Bills introduced in the Virginia Legislature on Tuesday would help the tribe achieve its goal. HB 2698 and SB 1706 authorize a casino to be operated "by an Indian tribe acknowledged by the United States Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Federal law that has the authority to conduct gaming activities as a matter of claimed inherent authority or under the authority of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act."

Though Virginia is home to seven federally recognized tribes, only the Pamunkey has the authority to engage in gaming. The other six are barred from doing so under the 2018 law that formally acknowledged their status.

The bill also requires a Pamunkey casino to be located "within a city with a population greater than 200,000." That would include Norfolk, where the tribe has announced plans for a $700 million development.

The legislation further imposes a 10 percent tax on gaming proceeds. A similar rate is likely to be addressed in any Class III gaming compact that the tribe might negotiate with the state pursuant to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The tribe is facing a long wait if it goes through with the land-into-trust process at the BIA. It typically takes several years for an application to be processed, particularly in light of legal hurdles affecting newly recognized tribes like the Pamunkey.

Read More on the Story
Pamunkey tribe says it's willing to jumpstart Norfolk casino project under commercial gaming law (The Richmond Times-Dispatch January 15, 2019)
Casino wars: Portsmouth, Norfolk are battling for Virginia's first casino (The Virginian-Pilot January 15, 2019)
Legislation would permit Pamunkey Indians to open resort casinos in Virginia (WTKR January 15, 2019)
Casino Legislation (The Associated Press January 15, 2019)

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