Opponents Of Proposed Casino In Fairfax County Voice Concerns

Written By T.J. McBride on November 27, 2023
Photo of downtown Reston on a story about a possible casino being built in Fairfax County.

Even before Richmond voters rejected a proposal to build a casino in the capital city on Nov. 7, state Sen. David Marsden told residents in Fairfax County that he would pursue building a casino in the Reston area if they re-elected him.

They did. Now, Marsden is promoting the idea of building a casino on the Metro Silver Line. It runs from Washington, D.C. to Dulles International Airport. Specifically, the areas of Reston and Tysons Corner have been discussed as possible sites.

Opposition to the idea was immediate. Three Reston area officials have come forward since the election to voice their concerns. They all say a casino along the Dulles corridor would stymie growth in the area.

Q&A held to provide information on casino proposal to public

The Virginia casino market currently consists of just three commercial casinos: Rivers Casino Portsmouth, Hard Rock Bristol and Caesars Danville Casino. In October, the three casinos contributed $9.3 million to the state. Virginia online casinos are still illegal.

A recent question-and-answer session with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill outlined some specifics of building a casino near Reston, which is in the Hunter Mill District. For example, Hill said zoning may already be in place in several areas that would allow for a casino without having to go through a long planning process.

The largest hurdle, however, remains at the state level. No casino can be built in Fairfax County unless state legislators change the law as it is currently written. Lawmakers approved casinos in only five Virginia cities. None of the cities are in Fairfax County.

Marsden thinks the law can be changed to include the Reston area. He says he wants to pump in more money to communities that are struggling.

“The Silver Line was created for high density development and business owners paid a tax to build the Dulles Access Road and the Silver Line. They paid to have that done, and if we can put in a conference center in an entertainment district, anchored by a casino and some hotels, it creates a tremendous number of construction jobs, good union jobs, to work in those hotels.”

The Q&A was held to get the public thinking about the proposal, Alcorn said.

“There’s a lot of chatter in Hunter Mill right now about a possible casino, and certainly there have been a couple of bills in the General Assembly. So, I don’t think we know for sure that there’s going to be legislation next year. But certainly if there is, I thought it would be helpful for us to have more information about the process.”

Reston area leaders push back on proposal

Some Reston officials have made it clear that plans proposed by Marsden are not in line with what the area needs. Alcorn, who set up the Q&A, said back in October that he opposes the proposal.

“I oppose putting a casino on the Silver Line and (Dulles corridor developer) Comstock should be aware of my position on that. It has not changed since I first became aware of casino interest in the Dulles corridor late last year. The land around these stations is already valuable for so many other socially beneficial uses, and plopping a casino into these emerging transit-oriented development communities during their formative years is a bad idea.”

Lynne Mulston, president of the Reston Citizens Association, told Patch that city leaders will fight against the addition of a casino in the area.

“Reston is a planned community. An entertainment district with a casino is not in line with the community’s vision for the future of Reston. Over the past three years, 30 members of our community, including representatives from developers, worked with county staff, interest groups and the public to craft a Comprehensive Plan for the next decade of Reston’s growth. In the community’s plan that was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Wiehle Metro Station area is envisioned to be an urban neighborhood with encouragement for higher education, research and development, and tech uses. A casino would drastically change the vision for Reston. Reston Citizens Association stands with Supervisor Alcorn in opposition to a casino in Reston.”

President of the Reston Association Board of Directors, John Farrell, said some answers by Hill in the Q&A were “baffling.”

“Reston Association assures its membership that it is committed to opposing the establishment of a casino in Reston. Such a project disregards the principles recently set forward in the Reston Master Plan, which was adopted after dozens of community meetings and feedback from the Reston community. We are aware of no location in Reston which has been approved as a site for ‘public entertainment’ and find Mr. Hill’s statement baffling. Should the General Assembly approve a bill authorizing a referendum, the Reston community will demonstrate its opposition at the ballot box and elsewhere.”

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He is a Nuggets beat writer and also covers the regulated gambling industry across the U.S. His byline can be seen at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and more.

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