Virginia Bill Paves Way For A Possible Fairfax County Casino Bid

Written By Russ Mitchell on January 26, 2023 - Last Updated on August 1, 2023
Fairfax County casino

The Virginia General Assembly still has to sort out whether Richmond, Petersburg or both cities can vote to become home to the state’s fifth casino.

But, could a late bid by Fairfax County enter the Virginia casino mix?

It’s possible because Virginia leaders directed House Bill 2499 to the Committee on General Laws. It would add an option for any locality — not just a city — to become eligible for a casino vote.

Del. Wren Williams, a Rocky Mount Republican, introduced the bill. It doesn’t specifically mention Fairfax County, but the language in the proposal leaves no doubt. The locality must meet some requirements already in place for cities including thresholds based on:

  • unemployment rates
  • poverty rates
  • population decreases
  • untaxable real estate and other criteria.

Plus HB 2499 opens casino votes to “any county with a population greater than 1 million according to the 2021 population estimates” in a newly-created section of the bill. The mixed-use-eligible casino site also has to be:

  • within “one quarter of a mile [from] an existing station on the Metro Silver Line”
  • “outside the Dulles airport flight path” and
  • “outside the Interstate 495 Beltway.”

As station WRIC’s Jakob Cordes notes: “That would leave just a handful of potential locations in densely-packed Tyson’s Corner and the outskirts of Reston.”

So, let’s take a look at the newest “locality” bidding for a Virginia casino.

Where is Fairfax County and why does it matter?

Fairfax County is the Virginia portion of the Washington D.C. metro area. It actually has the highest population base in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria region. A Fairfax County casino would bump Richmond and/or Petersburg as the northernmost proposed site for a casino as well.

In fact, a Fairfax County VA casino would be direct competition for Maryland’s largest casino. MGM National Harbor draws Beltway bettors across the Potomac River in Oxon Hill.

  • Tysons Corner is a retail hub and unincorporated district west of I-495 near McLean, VA. It has two regional shopping malls. Tysons also serves as the corporate headquarters for Capital One, Freddie Mac, Gannett, Hilton Worldwide and other companies.
  • Reston is nine miles west of Tysons in the D.C. metro area and closer to Washington Dulles International Airport. Its corporate anchors include Rolls-Royce North America and Lending Tree International.

Is 2024 more likely?

Williams, the Republican Delegate and bill sponsor, had support across the asile and in another chamber. But, John Gonzalez at WJLA-TV caught up with Virginia Sen. David Marsden, a Burke Democrat. He was going to sponsor the bill on the senate side. But the senator told 7News in D.C. that he would withdraw the legislation this week.

The bill was too rushed in Marsden’s opinion. He still wants a closer look at the economic impact of a northern Virginia casino. He expressed support for the concept, however.

“From our conversations with our friends in northern Virginia, we have been hearing that there is a real desire for new and different entertainment options, which we see as a great opportunity for job creation, for economic development and for generating revenue that can benefit the entire Commonwealth. The bill we introduced provides an opportunity for the people of northern Virginia to explore this kind of development and decide if it’s right for their community.”

Based on Gonzalez’s reporting, potential sites for the casino include:

  • Tysons
  • Wiehle-Reston East
  • Reston Town Center
  • Herndon and
  • Innovation Center.

Four sessions ago — in March of 2019 — the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to create five host casino cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond. The Virginia gaming industry went 4-for-4 in 2020, but the Richmond casino bid waited a year and its bid fell short in 2021.

The city wants to try again in the 2023 cycle, but Petersburg supporters are trying to block a second vote.

A northern Virginia bid could expand gambling in the state even more. Or it could complicate efforts for the cities farther south.

Russ Mitchell Avatar
Written by
Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell covered news and sports in Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most decorated community newspapers in the state. He joined PlayIA as a lead writer and managing editor in 2021. He anxious to explore the growing Virginia gaming industry.

View all posts by Russ Mitchell