The development of the $500 million HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk, Virginia, is back on track following a period of confusion and delay over its construction timeline. The project, authorized by Norfolk voters via a local ballot referendum during the 2020 presidential election, is a joint venture between the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and billionaire gaming industry veteran Jon Yarbrough.
Resolving Construction Timeline Confusion
Norfolk is one of five cities designated by Virginia lawmakers in 2020 as potential commercial casino host locations. The endorsement of the gaming bill aimed to rejuvenate the economic conditions of these cities. Despite Norfolk residents showing significant support for the HeadWaters plan, with 65% backing it, progress at the 13.5-acre construction site adjacent to the city’s Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium has been slow.
The recent delays were attributed to misunderstandings between city officials and the casino developers regarding a proposed phased construction timeline for the resort. The tribe and Yarbrough withdrew their casino application from the city’s Architectural Review Board last month, citing mixed messages from the Norfolk City Council.
Revising the Development Plan
Initially, the HeadWaters Resort & Casino was set to be a single-phase construction project. However, in July, the developers revised the timeline to include two phases. The first phase was to consist of a 90,000-square-foot building housing the main space with live casino and other table games such as Slots and Blackjack, resort lobby, restaurant, sports bar, and parking structure. The second phase was to include a 300-room hotel and additional resort-style amenities such as a spa, extra restaurants, a rooftop pool, and an events center.
Local officials countered this revised timeline, stating that the city’s host agreement with the developers did not explicitly allow for a phased construction schedule. Both sides have now agreed to return to a single-phase construction plan. In a joint statement released after a meeting on July 25, both parties reaffirmed their commitment to the original 2020 casino plan.
Portsmouth’s Casino Profit From HeadWaters’ Delays
Among the five cities cleared for a casino in the 2020 Virginia gaming bill, Norfolk and its neighboring city Portsmouth are separated by the Elizabeth River. Portsmouth voters also approved their casino project during the November 2020 election. Rivers Casino Portsmouth, developed by Rush Street Gaming, took advantage of the delays at HeadWaters, opening its doors on January 23, 2023, and successfully capturing a significant market share in the Hampton Roads region.