Fairfax County Casino Bill Takes First Step Toward Passage

Written By Phil West on January 24, 2024
Photo of a man placing a vote with Virginia and casino logos on a story about a bill in regards to a Fairfax casino advancing in the legislature

A tie was as good as a win on Tuesday for a Virginia state senator looking to pass a bill that would lead to Fairfax County getting its own casino.

Senate Bill 675 got through the subcommittee on gaming with a 4-4 vote on Jan. 23, meaning that state Sen. David Marsden’s bid to deliver a casino to Tysons Corner is still alive. The bill now faces a vote as soon as Wednesday, Jan. 24, from the full Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology, needing a majority to progress through the legislative process.

Changes in the bill’s language removed some of the ambiguity in where the new casino might be located.

Reston no longer a possible site for casino

In 2020, lawmakers approved five cities where Virginia casinos could be housed.

  • Bristol
  • Danville
  • Portsmouth
  • Norfolk
  • Richmond

The first three cities currently have either a permanent (Rivers Casino Portsmouth) or a temporary casino (Bristol Hard Rock Casino and Caesars Virginia in Danville) in operation, while plans are moving forward to build a casino in Norfolk. Richmond voters have twice rejected a casino being built there, opening up the possibility of another location replacing Richmond.

Marsden wants Tysons Corner to be that replacement.

He has gone on record saying the destination is the abandoned Exclusive Automotive Group lot at 8546 Leesburg Pike, a former Aston Martin and Bentley dealership near the Spring Hill Metro station (on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Silver Line) in Tysons Corner.

Those concerned that Reston might be considered as a location had their worries put to rest by the language change in the bill, the Tysons Reporter reported.

“Senate Bill 675 now states that the casino should be within two miles of a ‘regional enclosed mall’ that’s at least 1.5 million square feet in size, a change from the initial version filed last week that said the site should be within two miles of a ‘major shopping destination.’”

Other elements of the bill’s language, including that it must be a quarter mile from a Metro Silver Line station, part of a mixed-use development and outside of the Capital Beltway (I-495), are still intact.

Area struggling economically, but many oppose casino plan

If built, a casino in that location would allow more than just Northern Virginia residents convenient access. The Silver Line runs from Ashburn in Loudoun County to Largo in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, and its stops include Dulles International Airport and 14 stops within the District of Columbia.

Marsden sees a number of advantages to a Tysons Corner casino complex that extend beyond gambling.

“It would be easy for people to come, and we’re also not just envisioning a casino here. What we’re talking about is a conference center that does not exist in Fairfax County. We’re also talking about a hotel and concert venue.”

One supporter, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Koons, pointed out that the proposed casino complex would “contribute an estimated $2 billion to the region and would bring thousands of new jobs to the county.”

The Tysons Reporter article said the area badly needs an economic boost.

“Tysons in particular is seeing a 20% office vacancy rate, and foot traffic to office buildings is just 70% of pre-pandemic levels, according to a market study that the Tysons Community Alliance released last summer.”

Another person speaking in favor of the bill, Thompson Hospitality Executive Vice President Benita Thompson-Byas, said “new revenue sources are needed for the county and the hospitality industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic.”

Though no one spoke against the bill at the hearing, the Tysons Reporter story said there is significant opposition.

“Multiple subcommittee members said they had received “hundreds” of concerned emails, letters and calls from local residents and groups, including the McLean Citizens Association and the Great Falls Civic Association, which have put out statements urging the General Assembly not to approve the bill.”

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayVirginia
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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