A Casino For Recently Recognized Pamunkeys?

All eyes are on the Pamunkey Indian tribe of Virginia, which recently received federal recognition. Will the 208-member tribe open a casino? Acting Chief Bob Gray said, "We haven’t put anything on or off the table." Virginia is one of just 10 states without a casino.

Now that it is federally recognized, the 208-member Pamunkey tribe in Virginia, which claims Pocahontas as an ancestor, can consider whether they want to open a casino on their reservation 20 miles east of Richmond. Acting Chief Bob Gray said, “We haven’t put anything on or off the table. Right now, that’s not our focus. Not to say we won’t look at it. Now that we have federal recognition, some of those companies that do that sort of thing may come knocking on our door.”


The Pamunkey tribe is the first to be federally recognized in Virginia, which is one of just 10 states that do not have casinos and has long opposed them. Speaker of the House, state Rep. William J. Howell, said, “I’d be pretty disappointed, but there probably wouldn’t be much I could do about it. That’s my understanding of the law.”


Richmond lobbyist Charlie Davis, who has represented casino interests, said a Pamunkey casino “would be a game-changer if they went there. It would be huge. It would be sort of like the meteorite that slammed into Earth and created the estuary that is the Chesapeake Bay.”


The tribe’s actions are being closely watched by MGM Resorts International which will open the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor casino resort in Prince George’s County, Maryland next year. MGM Resorts had opposed federal recognition for the Pamunkeys out of concern tribe could open a competing casino that would appeal to Virginia customers.


If the Pamunkeys do decide to pursue a casino, if every step went smoothly the entire process could take three to five years at a minimum.