Tribes join race for commercial casino in Virginia

by Administrator
in Casino
Wednesday, January 8, 2020   

Two Indian nations are looking to land a commercial casino in Virginia while a third keeps its options open after recently gaining federal recognition.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on Tuesday announced a partnership to bid on a casino in the southwestern part of the state. The Seminole Tribe, through its Hard Rock International brand, is already part of a second proposal in the same area -- just a mile away, in fact, according to news reports.

Both tribes have extensive experience in gaming. The Eastern Band operates two tribal casinos on its homelands in neighboring North Carolina while Hard Rock oversees a vast empire of tribal and commercial facilities in Florida and around the world.

Both tribes, however, must wait on further action from the Virginia Legislature. Lawmakers have yet to authorize gaming, with the southwestern region up for consideration as one of the areas where a commercial casino would go.

The Pamunkey Tribe, whose federal recognition became final in 2016, is also in the game. Options include a commercial project, assuming state lawmakers follow through after receiving the results of a gaming study in late November.

Or the tribe could pursue a casino under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a federal law. Going that route will likely take several, if not more years, as it requires the acquisition of land through the cumbersome fee-to-trust process as well as the negotiation of a Class III gaming compact with the state, all under the threat of litigation and shifting political winds.

The Pamunkey Reservation is located near Richmond, the state capital. The tribe is not looking to build a casino there, however, having recently signed an agreement with the city of Norfolk, further south near the border with North Carolina.

Virginia is home to six other federally recognized tribes whose status was acknowledged by an act of Congress. Under the law, they are barred from engaging in gaming on any of their lands.

The Pamunkeys are not bound by the same restriction, having gained status through the federal acknowledgment process at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. However, the tribe faces other hurdles, such as the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, which has prevented at least one recently recognized Indian nation from opening a casino.