NO OPEN COMPETITION
With the Pamunkey casino deal, for the first time ever, a city is introducing casino gaming with no regard for the free market concepts of transparency and open competition. In fact, almost nothing is known about how and why the Pamunkey, who are not from Norfolk, have no experience with development, and no capital, were pre-selected. Normally, cities make potential casino developers compete against each other to ensure they are getting the best deal possible for their citizens.
According to a study released by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, “Most of Virginia’s peer states use a competitive bidding process to award casino licenses, which creates market competition. Market competition helps ensure that the few available casino licenses are awarded to the most qualified and financially stable owners/operators who submit the most realistic and responsible proposals. A competitive selection process is especially important in a limited casino market in which the limited number of casino licenses effectively creates a monopoly for casino owners/operators.”
For some reason, Norfolk’s City Council decided to just ignore that. This was a no-bid, no-compete give-away to a well-connected billionaire named Jon Yarbrough, who struck a deal with the Pamunkey. Who is this guy and why was he chosen? Why was the process so hidden from public view? We demand answers.
THE CITY OF NORFOLK ACTIVELY WORKED TO SILENCE THE PUBLIC’S VOICE
This is not the first time Norfolk citizens have spoken up. A group of Norfolk activists working under the banner of “Say NO to the Norfolk Casino” fell 320 signatures short of the 4,000 signatures required to call for a referendum on the plan in Oct. 2019. Part of the reason is because Norfolk promoted a form on an official city website that enabled people to remove their names from the petition. This is completely unheard of in city government.
The city claimed that the form was developed following a series of calls from residents who had suddenly changed their minds on the casino. Conveniently for the casino developers, Mayor Alexander ordered that the form be removed from the city’s website only after enough signatures had been removed to keep the anti-casino petition from succeeding. Does that sound fair and democratic to you? In addition, City has a clause in its contract with the Pamunkey that it “shall reasonably assist the Tribe in responding to negative comments about the Project.” Is the City of Norfolk working for us, or for them?
Sources: https://www.pilotonline.com/government/local/vp-nw-norfolk-casino-petition-name-remove-20191015- bqqmmrwaefehneemevbjuhvzay-story.html
Section 9, Part B: https://www.norfolk.gov/DocumentCenter/View/61655/Development-Agreement-Executed
THE CASINO MAY HURT LOCAL BUSINESS – THERE IS NO IMPACT STUDY
The Pamunkey claim that their casino will create hundreds of jobs and millions in revenue, but there has been no independent investigation into what the economic impact of a casino resort would be on existing Norfolk businesses. How can the City Council get behind something that could potentially put hundreds of existing local businesses OUT of business?
The jobs it would create pay less than median wage. It will destroy many other jobs at the same time. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and other forms of entertainment stand to lose foot traffic due to the casino, and there has been no consideration given to them whatsoever. Concerns have been raised by organizations such as the Downtown Norfolk City League, but no satisfactory answer has been provided. All we have is a study commissioned by the developers that says what they want it to say.
If the purpose of legalized gaming is to bring positive economic benefits to our people, how can we approve this until we have an objective study on what the actual impact will be?