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Pamunkey Casino Project in Norfolk Faces New Obstacle Due to Nansemond Indians Objection to Land Purchase

The Pamunkey tribe seems to be facing another difficulty on its way to building the first casino in downtown Norfolk.

An objection has been filed against the Pamunkey’s attempt by the Nansemond tribe who object the claims that the parcel they are negotiating to purchase from the city of Norfolk was a part of the land once owned by Pamunkey’s ancestors. This is considered a crucial part of any tribal petition to get its property accepted into a federal trust, which on the other hand, is required for some specific uses, including gambling.

According to the Nansemond tribe, the 20-acre waterfront parcel is actually part of its own territory, so if the land is officially claimed by the Pamunkey, the Nansemond would not be able to do so. As claimed by the Pamunkey tribe, the Indian tribal nation applied for acquiring the land because its reservation would not be appropriate for a casino venue, as it in a state trust which makes gambling suspended there.

Despite some theories that the Nansemond tribe is deliberately trying to prevent the Pamunkey from establishing the first casino in the city, they claim that their objections have nothing to do with gambling. By law, the tribe is actually unable to engage in gaming operations, so its claims are believed to be associated with their heritage.

That is why the tribe has written to politicians, gaming directors, federal administrators, as well a to the Pamunkey, in an attempt to prevent the latter of acquiring the land and establishing a gambling facility there.

Pamunkey the Only Virginia Tribe Allowed to Run Gambling Operations

The Mayor of Norfolk, Kenny Alexander, publicly revealed the plans for a casino establishment in the city in December 2018, with the tribe’s spokesman Jay Smith confirming the Indian tribe’s hopes to be able to open the first casino in the city.

For the time being, only tribes that are given official federal recognition by the Department of Interior could offer casino gambling services without being required to apply to state authorities for separate approval. The coveted status, known as federal recognition, gives a lot of benefits to the nation, including certain opportunities for economic development such as gambling, even in states where the latter is actually banned. Such status of a native tribe was given to the Pamunkey in 2015.

Currently, there are seven Indian tribes in Virginia which have received federal recognition status. Six of them, however, including the Nansemond tribe, have received the status through an act of Congress dated 2018 which required a concession for no gambling services operated by the tribes. This literally makes the Pamunkey Indians the only ones who have achieved their federal recognition status through the standard procedure at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and are for the time being the only ones who could at least try opening a casino in the state of Virginia.

For the time being, the ancestral claim is actually the only obstacle for the gambling venue, but permission from the federal authorities should be sought, too. According to some experts, this could turn out to be a lengthy process, which could even take a decade until a final decision on the project is made.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.