Posted on: March 7, 2022, 10:43h.
Last updated on: March 7, 2022, 12:05h.
The Norfolk Boxing and Fitness Center, located inside Harbor Park, could become the site of the Virginia city’s first commercial casino.
Norfolk is one of five cities that qualified under 2020 legislation to consider a commercial casino development. Virginia decided to end its decades of prohibiting nearly all forms of gambling in an effort to help the handful of economically troubled cities generate new investment activity.
Norfolk partnered with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and gaming veteran Jon Yarbrough to develop a $500 million resort along the Elizabeth River. The undertaking — HeadWaters Resort & Casino — is targeting vacant land adjacent to the Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium.
HeadWaters isn’t expected to open before the second half of 2024. To appease some of the budding demand for slot machines and table games, reports have surfaced that HeadWaters will open a temporary casino inside Harbor Park. Virginia’s 2020 gaming legislation allows for such interim gaming locations, so long as they are near where the permanent casino is being built.
“The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, in coordination with the development of its HeadWaters Resort & Casino, is excited to discuss with the City of Norfolk the possibility of opening a restaurant and lounge with limited gaming,” said Jay Smith, spokesperson for the casino project, to Casino.org.
Smith explained that no decisions have been made regarding a temporary casino space. However, he said the casino partnership is “ready to make a major investment in the stadium, create job opportunities, and begin providing tax revenue to the city.”
With Rivers Casino Portsmouth already moving ground and proceeding with its $300 million project just miles away, HeadWaters establishing a temporary gaming space in Norfolk is critical in order to establish a customer base in what’s expected to be a highly competitive Hampton Roads market.
Progress at the HeadWaters construction site isn’t moving nearly as quickly as in Portsmouth. Local officials say the roughly 13.5 acres of land next to Harbor Park, which is currently a concrete parking lot, is in poor condition.
The concrete closer to the water’s edge is in especially bad shape.
You can literally fall through some of it,” Norfolk’s Director of Economic Development said Jared Chalk. He says allowing HeadWaters to operate a pop-up gaming space inside Harbor Park makes sense.
“A temporary facility where you can go and play slots and get your players club card and whatnot,” Chalk detailed.
The Norfolk Boxing and Fitness Center has sat closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city-owned business says it has no current plans to reopen the 13,000-square-foot center.
Yarbrough made his billions developing tribal gaming machines. He sold his firm — Video Gaming Technologies — in 2014. Forbes Estimates his net worth at $3.1 billion.
Yarbrough and Pamunkey Indians are bringing in another major industry player to build HeadWaters. The group announced last fall that it’s pairing national construction firm Suffolk with Hampton Roads-based WM Jordan Company to build the $500 million resort.
Suffolk’s deep history in the gaming and hospitality industries is headlined by the firm constructing the now-iconic 36-story guitar tower at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Suffolk’s recent gaming portfolio additionally includes Encore Boston Harbor in Massachusetts and Saracen Casino in Arkansas.