Next week, Tuesday 3 November, a citywide referendum will take place in Norfolk, Virginia, to determine the future of the $500m Norfolk Casino and Resort, which saw the Pamunkey Indian Tribe selected as preferred developer.
With many residents and community leaders on-board with a project that has been praised as being set to bring jobs and education funding to the city, a number of ringing endorsements have been documented as locals are urged to vote yes.
As a decision regarding the future of the development nears, CasinoBeats has been speaking to Jay Smith, spokesperson for the Norfolk Resort & Casino, to get the lowdown on the potential construction ahead of a crucial vote.
To begin the conversation, Smith elaborates on the messages he would have for locals ahead of the referendum: “For those still on the fence about how to vote, I would encourage them to learn more about the proposed project. We have put more information on our website than any of the other casinos being proposed in Virginia.
“From there, they can learn about the benefits to education, benefits to the community, benefits to tourism and the economic benefits. We have found that the more people learn about the project and what it will mean for the city, the more excited they are to support it.
“Norfolk can’t let this opportunity slip by”
“Unfortunately, we’re up against a campaign opposing the casino that is almost entirely funded by a casino competitor that wants our project to fail so they can swoop in and build their own casino.
“They are using fear and spreading misinformation to generate opposition – so it’s important that voters go directly to our website (www.allinNorfolk.com) to learn about this project.”
The potential benefits should the yes movement succeed have been long-documented, and Smith points to the financial impact as a key consideration for locals: “This is a win for the City, a win for the Commonwealth and a win for the community,” it is commented.
“With other cities in Virginia also contemplating opening a casino, Norfolk can’t let this opportunity slip by. In addition to the benefits to the City and community, this casino will also generate $50m every year for Virginia’s public schools.
“This is on top of the $30m annually for the City. With $30m annually in new revenue for Norfolk, $50m annually for Virginia public schools and 2,500 permanent jobs, even people who never plan to step foot in the casino are eager to vote cast their vote in support of this project.”
It is thought that the facility will feature a 300-room full service hotel, 3,000 slots, 150 table games, steak and seafood restaurant, sports bar and grill, cafe, spa and 2,500-seat entertainment venue.
“The Pamunkey Tribe understands what it’s like to face adversity, discrimination and lack of opportunities”
The venue, as previously alluded to, has received widespread endorsements from a number of local leaders, with Smith elaborating on why this is so: “For more than 18 months, the Pamunkey Tribe has been talking to the city’s leadership about what a partnership could look like,” he says.
“The city’s leaders recognise the tremendous opportunity it brings to the city – more than $30m every year in new tax revenue and 2,500 permanent jobs. This would make the Norfolk Resort & Casino the city’s fifth largest private employer.
“As impressive as those figures are, it doesn’t begin to capture the real positive impact. The new resort and casino will mean bringing millions of visitors to Norfolk that will also support the other businesses in the area; it will revitalise riverfront property that has been vacant for years; and provide an economic boost to the entire region. Leaders of all political stripes recognise these benefits and they have been enthusiastic supporters almost from the beginning.
“A project of this size does not come along often. Cities and states often bend over backwards, offer millions of dollars in tax breaks and government subsidies to attract a project of this size with this many jobs.
“However, this project will invest $500m of private sector money with not a single dollar in tax breaks or government subsidies for the developer. That’s a significant reason why so many local leaders have embraced this project.”
Furthermore, to ensure the property’s workforce reflects the diversity of the Norfolk community, the Norfolk Resort and Casino has developed a Minority Outreach and Hiring Plan.
This has set a goal to hire 90 per cent of its workforce from Norfolk and the surrounding area, with 50 per cent promised to be comprised of individuals from minority groups.
Smith concluded the exchange by outlining out how much weight the Minority Outreach and Hiring Plan adds to the proposal: “The Pamunkey Tribe understands what it’s like to face adversity, discrimination and lack of opportunities.
“That’s why they are committed to lifting up all communities – particularly those who are often left behind. That’s why they have pledged to make training and hiring within the minority community a high priority.
“From the restaurants in the casino to the executive management suites, they want the Norfolk Resort and Casino workforce to reflect the community. They have set an ambitious goal of hiring 90 per cent of their workforce from Norfolk and the surrounding localities and 50 per cent of their workforce from minority communities.
“The Tribe understands that achieving these goals won’t be easy. That’s why they are going to partner with local workforce development organizations and universities to recruit and train potential employees. It’s not just about offering jobs; it’s about setting people up to success in a career.”