Tribal Organization: Pamunkey Indian Tribe
PAMUNKEY CASINO AND HOTEL
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe received federal recognition as an American Indian tribe in 2016, which is the first step towards authorized Indian gaming under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The Pamunkey casino is the more conceptual of the two projects, and the tribe's representatives are quick to caution that their development may or may not happen in New Kent.
With financial backing from gaming billionaire Jon Yarbrough, the tribe is planning a variety of economic development projects, including senior living, health care facilities and a museum.
Though the land the tribe has secured in New Kent is one potential casino site, the tribe expects to announce more land acquisitions in the coming months.
Once the Pamunkeys have assembled their real estate portfolio, they'll approach the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for approval to take the land into trust, essentially adding it to their existing reservation in King William County.
The timeline for that process is unclear. Other gaming interests - including MGM, which opposed the tribe's push for federal recognition - could intervene to try to block the land acquisition. And it remains to be seen how the administration of President Donald Trump - who once sued the federal government to try to block Native American casinos that competed with his own - will handle proposed expansions of Indian gaming.
If the Pamunkeys receive the necessary federal approvals, the tribe will likely have to enter into a compact with the state. That could involve negotiating a deal to give the government a cut of the casino's revenue in exchange for exceptions to the state's anti-gambling laws and assurances that the state won't throw open its doors to more casinos.
With all General Assembly seats up for election next year, legislative attitudes toward casinos could change before the Pamunkeys lobby for any legislation. Republicans hold slim majorities in the House and the Senate, and Democrats are optimistic about their chances to flip the chambers to their control.
It's not clear what kind of local approvals might be necessary. Hathaway, the New Kent administrator, said he's researching the issue, but it doesn't appear a local casino referendum would be necessary.
"There's some discussion that needs to be had before we're in a position to make any formal comment," he said.
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