Developers of the forthcoming Norfolk casino have scrapped plans to open a temporary gaming venue inside the Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium. That’s amid the construction of the permanent resort next door.
Harbor Park baseball stadium. The developers behind the Norfolk casino plan to open a temporary casino in the coming months on what is currently a paved parking lot (top left). (Image: The Virginian-Pilot)
HeadWaters Resort & Casino is a $500 million project from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and billionaire gaming veteran Jon Yarbrough. Norfolk was one of five economically challenged cities that qualified to consider using a casino to bring new economic activity, jobs, and tax revenue to their regions.
Norfolk partnered with the Pamunkey Tribe and Yarbrough for the gaming opportunity, and residents signed off on the HeadWaters proposal through a 2020 local ballot referendum.
Virginia’s commercial gaming law allows for temporary casinos to open as the larger resorts are built. But the statute requires that those interim gaming venues only operate at the same address where the permanent casinos have been authorized.
HeadWaters is set to be built on roughly 13.5 acres of land adjacent to Harbor Park. The property is currently a large parking lot. Its address is 200 Park Avenue.
The Norfolk referendum passed by voters allows gambling at “the approximate address of 200 Park Avenue.” The group behind HeadWaters revealed today that Norfolk officials and the casino developers considered opening a temporary venue inside Harbor Park that was formerly a restaurant and boxing club.
But the ballpark’s address — 150 Park Avenue — could have resulted in legal concerns as to whether commercial gambling is lawfully allowed at that location. To remedy those potential worries, HeadWaters will instead build a new facility on the 200 Park Avenue property that will serve as an interim casino.
New Facility Coming
HeadWaters says utilizing Harbor Park would have streamlined the opening of Norfolk’s first casino.
“The tribe and the City of Norfolk had explored locating the temporary facility in an underutilized area of Harbor Park, because it provided a unique win-win opportunity to upgrade a city-owned, aging facility that would also benefit the community and the fans at no taxpayer expense while generating immediate revenue for the city. However, issues were recently raised about the address of the proposed initial gaming facility,” a HeadWaters statement to Casino.org detailed.
The tribe says a new venue is the next best thing.
The plan to locate the initial casino in the parking lot to the east of the ballpark is a win for the city and will result in an even better customer experience at the new Pamunkey Casino,” the statement continued.
HeadWaters’ construction team is said to be finalizing a site plan that will soon be submitted to the city for approval. Once that approval is in hand, HeadWaters will begin work on the gaming building, with its opening planned for March 2023.
HeadWaters did not specify the scope of the forthcoming temporary casino build, nor how many slot machines and table games it will likely accommodate. HeadWaters says those details will be revealed in the next few weeks.
Hard Rock Bristol earlier this month became the first commercial casino to open in Virginia. That temporary casino offers 870 slot machines and 21 table games. The permanent Hard Rock resort isn’t expected to open until 2024.
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