Norfolk’s Planning Commission backed the construction of a temporary gaming casino at a local baseball stadium. Rodney Ferguson, the Pamunkey Indian Tribal Gaming Authority’s Executive Vice President, presented before the Commission last Thursday about the gaming authority’s plan to set up a temporary casino at the baseball park.
The Planning Commission backed the authority’s plan as it voted 5-1 and recommended a two-year conditional use permit for the Indian Tribe. Ferguson informed the Commission that the temporary casino will have 625 slots, a restaurant, and electronic table games.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe aims to use the casino to launch Class III gaming in the area. The city and Tribe signed an agreement in 2020, and voters passed the development of a $500 million HeadWaters Resort and Casino on 13-acre waterfront property near the ballpark.
The Tribal Gaming Authority’s official added that the property would allow visitors and residents to access a facility which will be their big facility’s teaser. This is the first step that the Indian Tribe has taken in venturing into Norfolk’s gaming market, and it will prove HeadWaters’ potential.
The Planning Commission’s recommendation will be presented to the Norfolk City Council. Rumors claim that the Council will act on it in June. Local casino executives are optimistic that the Virginia Lottery Commission will start giving them licenses in July to develop the temporary gaming venue.
Restricted Access to the Stadium
In March, reports about the ballpark’s conversion to a temporary casino started emerging. The gaming site will permit guests to enjoy a sumptuous meal as they cheer the Norfolk Tides. John Thompson from Golden Eagle Consulting, the Pamunkey Tribe’s development partner, informed the Planning Commission that the baseball officials won’t let guests and residents access the temporary casino directly from the concourse.
Anyone cheering the Triple-A team and wanting to play slots will have to leave the concourse and walk to the temporary casino’s entrance on the park’s first base side to wager. Thompson stated that HeadWaters would pay $175,000 to the Tides to upgrade the concourse’s kitchen facilities as they agreed to run the casino in the baseball park.
It will shift the kitchen near the concessions on the third base. Yet, the agreement depends on the Council’s conditional use permit approval.
Rising Safety Concerns
Thursday’s meeting had several emerging issues, the players’ safety in the casino being one of the key concerns. The Norfolk Civic League opposed the proposal claiming that the temporary casino would overwhelm Norfolk’s police patrols to secure the downtown area.
Casino officials gave the League an 88-page safety plan before the meeting. But, Preston Carraway, the Civic League’s Vice-Chair, stated that they would have to review the project before declaring its stand about the casino. Kim Sudderth, a Planning Commission member, didn’t vote as she claimed that she has to check the security plan first.
Ferguson explained the security plan to the commission before its members and Carraway voted. It includes recruiting 45 personnel who will closely watch the temporary casino at all times. Besides, it will have sophisticated detection equipment to prevent players from entering the facility with weapons such as pepper spray.
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