Pamunkey Indian Tribe to develop Richmond casino - Washington Business Journal

Friday 17th January 2020

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe announced Friday plans to develop a $350 million resort and casino in Richmond, Virginia, a facility that could chip away at MGM National Harbor's dominance in the greater region.

The tribe has purchased, or has under contract, four parcels in Manchester, on the Richmond's southside, totaling 49 acres. It plans to develop the resort on 36 acres along Ingram Avenue near Commerce Road and will initially use the second, 13-acre parcel on Jefferson Davis Highway as a workforce training facility. That parcel will be converted into something "for the benefit of the surrounding community" upon the opening of the resort, perhaps a grocery store or a health clinic, or both.

The Pamunkey's Richmond casino is in addition to one it plans in Norfolk. On Jan. 13, the tribe signed an agreement with the city of Norfolk to acquire 13.4 acres for $10 million for an even larger resort and casino.

"Not only does this help fulfill the government's intent to use gaming to help us secure our future but it will also be a great economic boost for the City of Richmond and its citizens," Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray said in a statement.

MGM National Harbor, which sits 114 miles north of the Richmond site, generated $62.6 million in December, a 4.5% increase over December 2018. Despite a down month here and there, MGM generally comes in at No. 1 in terms of gaming revenue in Maryland, and it has long benefited from a lack of any casinos in neighboring Virginia. A casino in Richmond could be a draw for central Virginians who might choose to travel south rather than fight Northern Virginia traffic.

A recent study suggested a Northern Virginia casino would retain about $100 million that Virginia residents are currently spending at casinos in other states (meaning it would likely take a bite out of MGM National Harbor's revenue).

MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) opposed the Pamunkey's request for federal recognition -- an effort that started in 1982, according to The Washington Post. MGM has also challenged the tribe's federal status following its 2016 recognition, according to the report.

The Richmond resort will include a 275-room hotel with a spa, fitness center, pool, and dining options such as a high-end steak and seafood restaurant, a sports bar and grill, and a buffet and food court. The tribe estimates it could bring in 4 million visitors annually, drawing locally and from the greater Richmond area.

The project is expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs and 1,500 full-time, ongoing jobs.

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation last year that permits the tribe to pursue commercial gaming in Norfolk and Richmond.

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