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Harbor Park casino on tap in Norfolk

Norfolk Tides 2016A Harbor Park casino is on tap for the home of the Norfolk Tides (Triple-A; International League), as the Pamunkey Indian Tribe seeks to install a temporary facility until a permanent gaming hall is constructed.

It’s not a done deal, but the proposal proceeded to the point where it’s been approved by the city’s Planning Commission. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has applied to the city for a two-year conditional use permit for the temporary space until HeadWaters Resort and Casino open. To be located on 13 acres next to the ballpark. the $500-million development is set to open in two years, but the temporary facility is designed to introduce gaming to the area.

The temporary casino will be located in an unused restaurant as well as grandstand space used by the city’s boxing gym and training program, featuring 625 slot machines and an upgraded restaurant already in Harbor Park. The installation would take place at a time of change for the ballpark: the Tides and the city are discussing a new lease for the 30-year-old ballpark, to be accompanied by ballpark renovations.

While we’ve seen plenty of MLB teams pursuing gambling/sportsbook spaces within or very near ballparks, we’ve not seen the same opportunities on the minor-league level, with physical links between casinos and ballparks strongly discouraged. (Indeed, several MiLB owners we spoke with were surprised this plan was approved.) Technically, there won’t be access to the ballpark from the casino, though the restaurant is technically part of the Harbor Park: dining patrons will have views of the game but will need to leave the casino and walk around to the ballpark gates in order to attend a game.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Norfolk City Council and the Virginia Lottery Commission.

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