A sign on the Pamunkey Reservation in Virginia marks the grave of Powhatan, who was a leader of the Pamunkey people during the 1600s. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

Pamunkey Tribe sees support for gaming development in Virginia

The Pamunkey Tribe has the support of voters as it pursues a casino in Virginia, according to a new poll.

The Wason Center at Christopher Newport University found that 64 percent of voters back the tribe's efforts. And 58 percent say gaming should be allowed elsewhere in the state.

According to the poll results, a majority of Republicans and Democrats alike want to see the tribe open a casino. But Republicans were more likely to "strongly" object to the tribe's efforts, the results showed.

The tribe announced plans for a $700 million development earlier this year. A 600-acre site near Richmond, the state capital, is under consideration but has not been confirmed as the project location.

To move forward, the tribe would need to have lands placed in trust for a casino. The process typically takes several years to complete, especially for those Indian nations whose federal status was only recently finalized.

Chief Robert Gray also has said the tribe wants to negotiate a Class III gaming compact for slot machines, card games and other lucrative offerings. The lottery, bingo games and horse racing are legal under state law, and some lawmakers are hoping to legalize sports betting and full-scale gaming in 2019.

The tribe gained federal recognition in 2016 by going through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That was long after the 1934 date which the U.S. Supreme Court, with its decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, said must be considered as part of the land-into-trust process.

Earlier this year, six other tribes in Virginia won federal recognition through passage of H.R.984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act. Carcieri is not an immediate issue because the new law authorizes them to follow the land-into-trust process.

However, these tribes are forever barred from engaging in gaming on any acquired lands.

The Pamunkey Tribe is not subject to the same restriction.

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