A spur-of-the-moment bid to bring a casino to the Washington D.C. metro area was a little too spontaneous for Virginia lawmakers. As a result, Fairfax County, Virginia residents won’t have a casino vote on their Nov. 7 ballot.
Virginia casino votes cannot be held unless the state approves a new region for “casino host” status. House Bill 2499 would have done that for Fairfax County. But, it died in the Virginia House of Delegates Committee on General Laws.
The plan failed to thrive in the senate as well. Sen. David Marsden introduced a partnering bill — SB 1543. He asked the Senate’s General Laws and Technology Committee to strike that bill from the docket.
Marsden told Matt Blitz of the Virginia Mercury that the 2023 Fairfax County bid felt “rushed.” The concept needs more research, he added.
The District 37 state Senator could bring the bill back in 2024. He’s getting “mostly negative” feedback in general though.
“It’s an election year, so people are nervous talking about those kinds of things,” he told the Mercury.
Marsden initially felt a Fairfax County casino would add value along an 11.4-mile mass transit expansion. The new Silver Line rail segment connects Reston to Loudoun County at a cost of $3 billion. Marsden told Blitz:
“I’m very concerned about the future of Metro. … Ridership is down and we are facing a fiscal cliff here shortly in terms of how we are going to support Metro. Getting places built up with attractions and generating nightlife, generating restaurants and making it a destination improves both the economy of the commonwealth, the economy of Fairfax County and ridership on the Silver Line.”
What the 2023 Fairfax County casino bill looked like
Virginia set standards to introduce casinos in March of 2019. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to create five host casino cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond. Each host city needed local support as well. The Virginia gaming industry went 4-for-4 in 2020. The Richmond casino effort waited a year and its bid fell short in 2021. Fairfax County wasn’t on the original list.
Petersburg is trying to pick up Richmond’s fumble. But, since it wasn’t one of the original casino cities, it too needs a legislative change to allow a casino vote to go forward.
As for Fairfax County, any bill to revive a bid in 2024 would need to include language to allow casino votes in localities — not just cities.
Specific Fairfax County casino sites included Tysons Corner. That’s a retail hub in an unincorporated district west of I-495 near McLean, VA.
Reston was a second option. It’s a commerce hub about nine miles west of Tysons Corner in the D.C. metro area. Reston is closer to Washington Dulles International Airport compared to Tysons Corner.
John Gonzalez at WJLA-TV identified viable sites for the casino including:
- Wiehle-Reston East
- Reston Town Center
- Herndon and
- Innovation Center.
A neighboring state will watch developments in 2024. Any Fairfax County Virginia casino would be direct competition for Maryland’s largest casino. MGM National Harbor draws Beltway bettors across the Potomac River in Oxon Hill.