Virginia Tribe Seek Casino-Resort Land

Chief Robert Gray (l.), the leader of the tribe of Pocahontas, the Pamunkey Tribe, announced the tribe will build a $700 million off-reservation casino resort in eastern Virginia. Officials of the state's first federally recognized tribe said the development would include a hotel, spa and performance venue, generate $1 billion in annual indirect economic impact and create 5,000 construction jobs and 4,000 full-time jobs.

Virginia Tribe Seek Casino-Resort Land

Officials of the Pamunkey Tribe, which claims Pocahontas as an ancestor, announced they are seeking land for a $700 million casino resort, including a 1,200-room hotel, spa and performance venue. Chief Robert Gray said, “Federal recognition and the opportunities that it brings will mean greater job opportunities, more educational opportunities and the ability to provide better access to housing for our aging tribe members. The resort is just a piece of that bigger vision and hope for our future.”

Officials of the 380-member tribe estimated the casino resort could generate $1 billion in indirect economic impact annually, and create 5,000 construction jobs and 4,000 full-time jobs.

MGM, which opened the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor outside Washington, D.C. in late 2016, opposed the Pamunkey’s request for recognition. MGM also challenged the tribe’s federal status soon after it received recognition. Virginia convenience store and gas station owners and a California nonprofit that has opposed Indian gaming in that state also opposed Pamunkey recognition.

Gray noted, “The Pamunkey believe that this resort will help ensure the long-term success of the tribe and be a tremendous economic driver for the Commonwealth. Done the right way, it can be a win-win for both. I believe that as people learn more about our plans, they will become just as excited as we are about it.”

Gray said there’s no firm timeline, since the council needs to find suitable land with easy access. He noted the resort would not be built on the tribe’s 1,200 acre reservation in King William County; any location would have to be approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs as land that was once part of Pamunkey territory.

Gray added the tribal council would arrange a revenue-sharing agreement with the state and the locality where it builds the resort. Officials are working with an investor group that has helped other tribes launch similar ventures, Gray said. He stated the casino resort is part of an economic development strategy that could involve senior housing and broadband services for rural Virginia.

“We don’t live in teepees. We’re just your neighbors. We’ve got jobs in Richmond, Mechanicsville, Williamsburg. We’re retirees, kids. Right now we can use U.S. Housing and Urban Development)funds, the Indian Health Service. But wouldn’t it be great if we paid for our own health care with more self-sufficiency, more self government.”