UPDATED: Pamunkey Tribe’s $350M casino would rise on 36 acres near Manchester

A rendering of the proposed Southside casino complex. Courtesy Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Making a big bet on the city’s Southside, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe announced plans last week to potentially build a $350 million casino on the outskirts of Manchester.

The development would rise on 36 acres near the intersection of Ingram Avenue and Commerce Road in Manchester, and would feature a 275-room hotel with various dining options and a 1,000-space parking garage. Height and other specs for the casino were not disclosed.

Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray said the Richmond casino has been in the works for about a year.

“We didn’t really look around elsewhere (in Richmond),” Gray said. “Land availability was our primary concern.”

The tribe is under contract to purchase three parcels of land at 1401 Commerce Road, 1120 Gordon Ave. and 1260 Ingram Ave., where the casino would sit.

The Ingram Avenue and Commerce Road parcels are currently owned by City Central LLC, an entity tied to local development firm Harper Associates. The Gordon Avenue property is owned by an entity tied to RJ Smith Cos., another development and construction firm.

The three parcels were cumulatively assessed at $10.4 million, per city property records.

The tribe also is planning a casino employee training facility on 13 acres at 4737 Jefferson Davis Highway, which it purchased in June for $1.25 million.

The tribe’s efforts are backed financially by a variety of outlets, Gray said, including Jon Yarborough, an investor who backed the Pamunkey’s $3 million purchase of 600 acres in New Kent County.

“We’re still considering uses (for the New Kent property),” Gray said. “Richmond and Norfolk have taken most of our attention.”

The Richmond announcement comes within a week of the tribe signing a deal with the City of Norfolk to build a casino near Harbor Park Stadium.

The Pamunkey have two avenues to take to have the legal authority to build the casinos.

On the state side, the General Assembly last year passed legislation that allows the Pamunkey to pursue commercial gaming in Richmond and Norfolk, provided the localities passed a referendum that supports it.

That bill included a reenactment clause, meaning that it needs to pass again during the current General Assembly session. There are more than a dozen casino-related bills going through the General Assembly this session, and the tribe anticipates at least one will pass.

The second path the Pamunkey can take is through their status as a federally recognized tribe with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. That allows them to apply to the U.S. Department of the Interior to place all the land the tribe has acquired in a trust, and if approved, that land would become part of the Pamunkey’s reservation and its own sovereign nation.

The Pamunkey are planning to take the General Assembly route for the Norfolk casino. Gray said they have no preference on which route they’ll take in Richmond, and that their next steps are to follow how the casino-related bills in the General Assembly pan out.

Gray said the tribe has been in talks with Richmond about the project and that the city has been supportive.

That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Levar Stoney’s spokesman Jim Nolan, who said in a statement, “The mayor is excited about the opportunity to bring a resort-style casino to Richmond. We’ll wait to see what happens in the General Assembly and what it means for the city.”

The Pamunkey’s announcement came a week after state legislation was filed that would drastically change the way the proposed Navy Hill project in downtown Richmond would be financed.

Regardless of what comes of the Navy Hill project, Gray said the Pamunkey want to integrate their project with what the city already has.

“We don’t want to build out something that directly competes or impedes with projects Richmond wants to do. We see it as complementary,” he said.

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John Lindner
John Lindner
10 months ago

Maybe we could talk them into adding an arena to the project? Kill two birds with one stone?

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
10 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

You sir, are a genius!

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
10 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

Still has to get votes from the city, no?

Andrew reder
Andrew reder
10 months ago

Genuine question….is this going to destroy my home value? I’m literally 2 miles from this

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew reder

just the opposite.

Andrew reder
Andrew reder
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Hope ur right hombre…..hope ur right

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew reder

it depends: If done well it will help your home value. Given current location and situation, and incentives, I’d say it will be done well, and will help

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
10 months ago

And everybody does realize this is one city block from the hillside Court projects where Bruce Street meets Commerce Road. In the top 5 areas for deadliest neighborhoods/couple of dozen service calls a month for shots fired. Had a car window when I worked for the city shot out over there.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

A quick glance at crime maps suggest that the Navy Hill project area is no safer……at the moment. I’m not sure that current crime stats should restrict future plans.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

While I see your point, that is due to low pedestrian activity and vacant/underutilized structures and lots. The Navy Hill project seeks resolve that.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
10 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Justin, I agree. I suspect those numbers will fall considerably in both areas. Thus the thought of not using “current” crime to continue with new development of these types. AT least I hope that’s the case.

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

Navy Hill is just in the Capital neighborhood in the police reports and had 13 violent (no murders, no rapes) incidents and just over 200 total crimes reported last year. Size wise yes it is close to Commerce Road area in total numbers but Commerce Road Industrial corridor lacks residents. Navy Hill/Capital backs up to City Center that, from Canal to Broad, 1st to 7th Streets, A huge geographic area and yes it 67 serious crimes (60 of them assaults) Commerce Road backs up to Hillside (1 block over) and it had in its 4 block,, four hundred so units… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

I imagine casino security is going to be thick around there. I doubt it will be in the top 5 for long.

Kevin Randesi
Kevin Randesi
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

We should be glad they are building something like this – and taking a chance in the neighborhood. It’s a win-win. It’d be really cool to see the casino hire some people from Hillside Court – and help them with good paying jobs!

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
10 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Randesi

I hope they do but between the location and plans now for 2 casino in Bristol, 1 in Norfolk, 1 in Danville and the news that Maryland’s state casinos have declining revenue I think this will go bust before dirt is turned. If they do open, I hope they do a Section 3 hiring plan with RHHA and work to pay living wages.

William Samuels
William Samuels
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

No, I think this would be a great location, and if done right, a moneymaker. Right off of I-95, easily accessible (unlike the casinos in Maryland where you have to deal with a lot of traffic congestion to even get there), this would bring more tourism to Richmond — which is already gaining a great reputation as a tourist destination (see NY Times 52 travel picks in the world for 2020). I’m not a big gambler but have been to Las Vegas many times, and when we’re there we do a lot of other things besides gambling (side trips to… Read more »

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

The amount of people and security this will bring is likely to really improve that neighborhood. It’s pretty barren right now, people moving around in it is going to have a big effect.

Scott Pawney
Scott Pawney
10 months ago

So – how can this be stopped? Aren’t casinos illegal? This is so confusing – this isn’t their reservation? This must be stopped! They have no right to destroy the character of our city in this manner. Mayor Stoney, City Council – get going on blocking this!

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott Pawney

It can’t be stopped. It’s a federally recognized tribe. It can be negotiated with. But frankly, this will be good for Richmond if well done. I spend a reasonable amount of time in that exact area, and there is precisely no character there to destroy. It’s warehouses and light industrial next to i-95. Given the project and the location, I’m cautiously excited about the positive impact for Richmond.

George Louden
George Louden
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott Pawney

Scott have you ever been to the area of the city in question? Why do you feel this would destroy the character of the city…what do you consider to be the city’s character? I’m optimistic, but do question how great the economic return of casinos will be now that it is so easy to gamble in our neighboring states. I think had this been developed years ago before everyone else had their own it could have really been a win. Imagine an area like the riverwalk being developed with casinos, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment about 20 years ago. Richmond would… Read more »

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott Pawney

Destroying the character of that area is a bonus. Not all character is good, and that location is an absolute dump.

Ian Coleman
Ian Coleman
10 months ago

Does a tribe owned casino pay taxes such as real estate, income, alcohol, food sales?

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Coleman

good question, still unclear. I think some of that can be negotiated.

Kay Christensen
Kay Christensen
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Coleman

The answer is….mostly no.

Kay Christensen
Kay Christensen
10 months ago

Have y’all been to Atlantic City? What has having casinos done for the surrounding community? If you haven’t looked…it’s a slum directly behind the casinos. I’m unclear how this is a benefit for the City. Yes, many people come to the casino, eat in the restaurants, stay in the hotel and then they leave. What’s the City’s cut in this? I’m not certain that the tribe is paying taxes on revenues.

Kay Christensen
Kay Christensen
10 months ago

Native American tribes and their wholly owned tribal corporations are not subject to federal income taxes on their earnings. What’s the benefit to this?

Please enlighten me.

Andrew reder
Andrew reder
10 months ago

Ultimately I see this as a good thing. Even if it were land that we won’t see taxes from if it came to that. That particular spot is desolate. Putting hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment there will bring much more security personnel and millions of people to the city. It’ll help the economy overall. Plus that’s 1500 permanent jobs for the city as well.

Kay Christensen
Kay Christensen
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew reder

I partially agree about the jobs however, most casino jobs are low wage…approx $33K per year. I hope the negotiation includes revenue to the city/state and funding for treatment of gambling related addiction treatment that will likely rise in the area. Not a believer? Do a little research on Atlantic City and the casino’s impact on the city… Also, studies show that other forms of gambling usually take a hit – lottery/Rosies, etc. The lottery and Rosies are a direct revenue stream to the state and city. If the Tribe was paying taxes on revenues across the board, I’d be… Read more »

Andrew reder
Andrew reder
10 months ago

I’d much rather see taxable income flow into the city directly from it but I honestly don’t know how that’ll work. But the millions of visitors annually will surely roam around the city and spend money also. Rosie’s will take a hit absolutely. No disagreement there. But this particular part of the city is filled with run down and/or abandoned buildings that aren’t helping the city either. 1500 jobs in this area will be extremely beneficial IMO

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew reder

I would actually say most destination gamblers don’t roam. They are there to get their high and will allocate their capital accordingly. Only a very small percentage of gamblers will actually venture out of the casino.

Also, most (over 60%) casino customers live within a 30 mile radius of the casino.

Just throwing out some knowledge from within the industry.