NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A group of citizens who have criticized plans for a resort casino, have registered with the state to actively encourage voters to vote down the referendum the project needs to survive.
“Informed Norfolk” registered as a committee with the Virginia Department of Elections last week in order to be able to collect donations and spend money to spread their message ahead of election day.
The group is made up of many of the same people who first launched “Citizens for an Informed Norfolk” last year in an effort to have Norfolk City Council vote to repeal an earlier land sale agreement for the casino site.
The group had said then — and maintains now — they’re not exactly “anti-casino,” but “pro-information and pro-transparency.”
“We don’t necessarily have an issue with casinos. Just have an issue with this particular deal. This particular location and kind of the underhanded way the deal was forced upon us,” said Jackie Glass, a Norfolk resident and member of the committee.
Glass has been outspoken since the council first decided to enter into an agreement with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe back in September 2019. The public only had specifics on terms of the deal for two weeks before the council voted and in following meetings, prior public communication about casino-related items was minimal.
While Glass said she accepts the Mayor’s apology that communication over the issue was poor then, she said that doesn’t mean they are satisfied now.
“So many pieces we can go into where can say, ‘wait a minute. Did we ask ourselves or our partners about this? Did we consider this?’ You know with the deal as a whole,” Glass said.
Recently, several opinion pieces have appeared in the Virginian-Pilot from members of the group criticizing the selection of the Pamunkey’s and their partners Golden Eagle Consulting II LLC, which is backed by billionaire Jon Yarbrough. Neither have directly opened a casino before.
Glass said the group is receiving some communication help from Red Banyan, a Washington D.C. based P.R. firm that reached out to members of the group over the summer. Glass said the Informed Norfolk has not hired the consulting firm or paid them for any services.
“We are able to ask them questions about communications,” Glass said, explaining she initially declined their help as she didn’t and still doesn’t know who they are being paid by.
“Hi … I can’t name my client, unfortunately,” said Asher Levine, a managing director with Red Banyan following at 10 On Your Side inquiry.
It’s not uncommon for other gaming companies to try to defeat referendums that would result in a competition. The Pamunkey’s have already faced push back from MGM who operates a large resort casino across the Virginia border in Maryland.
Glass hopes if the group is successful, the idea won’t die completely.
“We do definitely need to develop,” Galls said. “We need to go back to the table and we need to do better for ourselves…I know that this particular deal. It’s not right.”