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 clears first hurdle with bill to authorize casino under state law

There's still a long way to go but the Pamunkey Tribe is seeing initial success with efforts to open a casino in Virginia.

A bill to authorize a casino for the tribe was included in a compromise package advanced by a Senate committee on Monday, according to news reports. The measure identifies either the city of Norfolk or the city of Richmond, the state capital, as potential host communities.

In order to move forward, the tribe would have to gain approval from voters in a host community. And a license would not be awarded by the state until July 1, 2020, pending the results of a gaming "study," according to news reports.

The tribe is willing to operate a casino under state law as a means of avoiding lengthy waits associated with the federal land-into-trust process. It typically takes several years, if not longer, to complete the necessary reviews.

Going through state law would also avoid a clash with the newly recognized Nansemond Indian Nation, whose ancestral territory includes the Norfolk area. Chief Samuel Bass has told the Virginia media that his tribe was never consulted about a potential casino in and around its homelands.

The Pamunkey Tribe, on the other hand, has homelands in and around Richmond, one of the host communities identified in the compromise bill.

The tribe has indicated that it still plans on submitting a land-into-trust application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The casino package was approved by the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology. The panel's agenda for Monday's meeting included several gaming bills.

"We just want to have a seat at the table," Chief Robert Gray said at the meeting, WAVY reported.

The measure must still clear several more hurdles, including consideration by the Committee on Finance, according to news reports.

Read More on the Story
Pamunkey chief says Norfolk casino is needed to help tribe (WAVY January 21, 2019)
Casino legislation clears first hurdle in Virginia Senate after significant changes (The Richmond Times-Dispatch January 21, 2019)
Can Hampton Roads handle two casinos? Under compromise bill, that could happe (The Hampton Roads Daily Press January 21, 2019)
Va. Senate committee grants rare victory for casino bill — but don’t bet on it yet (The Washington Post January 21, 2019)

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