Casino developer in Norfolk plans to open temporary casino next to Harbor Park stadium

July 21, 2022

The developer behind the upcoming Headwaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk, Virginia, has scrapped their initial plan to open a temporary casino inside Harbor Park stadium.

The decision was due to concerns that it would not meet the city’s 2020 casino referendum. Instead, the temporary casino will be built beside the stadium on a paved parking lot or the same property where Headwaters will be constructed.

Reportedly, the city had changed the stadium’s address last month, which was an “apparent attempt to circumvent language” in the casino referendum which was voted by Norfolk voters two years ago, as per The Virginian-Pilot’s Daniel Berti. City officials described the move as a routine adjustment and refrained to confirm that the referendum was the cause.

Headwaters’ developer to open a temporary casino

The upcoming Headwaters casino is a brainchild of billionaire gaming veteran Jon Yarbrough alongside the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. The tribe signed a development agreement with the city in 2020 for the $500 million casino project. In addition, the pact also entails the construction of hotel areas that cover 13.4 acres of city land across the Elizabeth River.

Norfolk was chosen to host the casino construction since the city is one out of five economically challenged cities. Therefore, the construction of Headwaters is hoped to reel in more economic traffic, job openings, as well as tax revenue in the region.

While the permanent casino is undergoing construction, the developer plans to open a temporary casino in the coming months.

City's concerns

However, the initial plan to build the temporary casino inside Harbor Park stadium had to be canceled following the address change made by city officials. The city’s casino referendum holds that the permanent casino gaming must be on a property “with an approximate street address of 200 Park Avenue,” or right next to the stadium.

“But when city officials wanted to open a temporary casino inside Harbor Park before the permanent one was built, one detail didn’t match up with the casino referendum: The stadium’s address was not 200 Park Avenue,” Berti wrote.

“Then, without an explanation, city officials changed the stadium’s address to match that of the land next door that will be the home of the future Headwaters casino.”

Mayor Kenny Alexander responded to the issue in an interview on Monday this week that there were concerns about the location and address of the temporary casino and said that the address was not as described in accordance with the referendum.

Responding to Alexander’s claims, casino developer John Thompson told the city council the following day that these concerns were “meritless” and on behalf of the developer as well as the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, the project’s development time must not be tampered.

“Issues have been raised about the address of the proposed gaming facility,” Thompson said. “We can’t risk the timing of the development or the tax revenue that would come back to the city over this address question, no matter how meritless we think it may be.”

The upcoming Headwaters was projected to finish construction and be fully operational in 2024, that is if the development time goes as scheduled. Moreover, the casino is set to be decorated with 3,000 slot machines and 150 table games. A hotel was also included in the plan alongside 300 rooms, a spa, multiple restaurants, and other luxurious amenities.

Jake Williams
Jake Williams is a sports gambling expert. He's been writing in the sports betting and DFS industry for over a decade. He specializes in MLB and NBA, along with College Basketball and College Football.