THE PAMUNKEY HAVE NO LINK TO NORFOLK AND NO EXPERIENCE IN GAMING
The Pamunkey Indian tribe is from King William, 83 miles away from Norfolk. Former Pamunkey Chief Brown even said it himself in the interview cited below. He also reminded us that they have no experience building a development or running a casino. Nothing close.
Here’s why that matters: There is no official management contract between Jon Yarbrough (aka Golden Eagle Consulting II) and the Pamunkey, so according to regulations, the Pamunkey must be the ones managing the casino, not Golden Eagle. If Golden Eagle were managing it, they would need to first seek approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission and that is not likely given Golden Eagle’s inexperience in casino management.
THE CASINO HAS A HIGH RISK OF FAILING
The Pamunkey and their backer, Jon Yarbrough, are wholly inexperienced in the arena of development, let alone casino development. Casinos are an enormous risk even for the most seasoned developers, and the Pamunkey are attempting to do it for the first time, in a substandard location, in a market that is about to get very competitive with a casino being opened by an experienced casino operator just 15 minutes away. In Portsmouth, officials have hired a Chicago gaming firm, Rush Street Gaming, to develop and run a casino resort on a 50-acre site near the city’s Tidewater Community College campus.
Assuming the Pamunkey casino is actually built, it has a high probability of failing and ending up a boondoggle, which will lead to tens or hundreds of millions in squandered tax revenue, job losses and additional downsides.
The truth is, casinos are notoriously difficult to manage, and they fail all the time, all over the world. We don’t need to look far to find examples, such as the Revel in Atlantic City, which closed just two years after it opened, leaving behind an empty building and hundreds unemployed workers. Do we really want to line up behind people who have never done this before?
THE PAMUNKEY CLAIM THEY HAVE SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY
The Pamunkey are not actually opening a Native Casino on sovereign land, but they still claim to have “Sovereign Immunity,” meaning no one except the City of Norfolk can sue them. It’s right in the fine print. Why would we allow this to happen? Everyone in Norfolk has to abide by our laws. Why won’t they?
Sources: P.15: H(b): https://www.norfolk.gov/DocumentCenter/View/61655/Development-Agreement-Executed P. 60: https://www.norfolk.gov/DocumentCenter/View/61653/Disclosure-Form—Tribal-Gaming-Authority-Signatures
THIS DEAL WILL DELIVER A MEASLY SUM FOR SCHOOLS IN NEED
Proceeds from the sale of land to the Pamunkey are expected to total around $10 million, and casino proponents have trumpeted that the money would go to Booker T. Washington and Maury High Schools, two predominantly African-American public schools. But that is a mere drop in the bucket, representing less than 5% of what the school district has said would be needed to rehabilitate those struggling schools. Renovating or rebuilding Booker T. Washington is estimated to cost $80 to $120 million. Renovating or replacing Maury could run between $100 and $125 million. The Pamunkey claim $50 million in tax revenue will go to schools each year, but that money is to be spread across the entire Commonwealth, meaning Norfolk will get only a tiny portion of it. Norfolk’s bad deal with the Pamunkeys is also bad for the future leaders of our community, and we must demand more. Much more.
NORFOLK DESERVES MORE
Why is the city about to line the pockets of a small group of people who aren’t even residents of Norfolk and have no ancestral connection to this land? They are being given priority over the people actually born and raised in Norfolk who live near the development site and whose lives would be most directly affected. While we appreciate their $150,000 pledge for a grocery store, our votes are not for sale.
The casino development represents part of a broader redevelopment of the adjoining neighborhoods, in which the city is forcibly removing people, mostly African-American, from their homes in order to build more expensive housing. The voices of those in the adjoining neighborhoods have not been considered in this process, and we must make it a priority that they are.