Senate Finance Committee Up Next For Fairfax County Casino Proposal

Written By Phil West on January 25, 2024
Virginia Sen. David Marsden, whose Fairfax County casino proposal passed a Senate subcommittee this week

A Fairfax County casino cleared another legislative hurdle on Wednesday.

The bill setting up a voter referendum on the matter passed on a vote from a Virginia Senate committee.

As the Associated Press reported, the 10-4 vote (with one abstention) from the Senate’s General Laws and Technology Committee on Wednesday puts Sen. David Marsden’s bill one step closer to letting voters have their say.

Earlier this week, Senate Bill 675 got through the subcommittee on gaming with a 4-4 vote. New language made clear that the site would be the one Marsden has referred to as he’s looked to drum up support for it — a former auto dealership near the Spring Hill Metro stop on the DC Metro’s Silver Line in Tysons Corner.

The language made also clear that it would not be in nearby Reston, where some officials already expressed reservations about that town becoming the home to a casino.

Marsden: ‘Our economy is changing in northern Virginia, and we need this help’

The AP reported, as Marsden and other proponents have made clear, that the casino complex would include a convention center and concert venue “in the heart of some of the nation’s wealthiest suburbs.”

It also reported on Marsden’s comments on the bill from this week’s hearings, which noted,

“A casino would help diversify the tax base of a county that has traditionally been the state’s economic engine and cash cow. But he said the post-pandemic economy has hit the county particularly hard, and that office space once filled with federal government contractors who desired physical proximity to the nation’s capital is empty now that many are working remotely.”

Marsden added, “This is the canary in the coal mine that our economy is changing in northern Virginia, and we need this help.”

Now, the bill advances to the Senate Finance Committee. If that committee gives the green light, the bill would then have to pass the full Senate then the House of Delegates before Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin would cap it off with a signature.

But then, before joining the three casinos in operation in Virginia already, the issue would need to go before voters. The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce supports the bill, with President and CEO Julie Koons maintaining the proposed casino complex would “contribute an estimated $2 billion to the region and would bring thousands of new jobs to the county.”

Proposed casino would draw from Washington, DC and Maryland

Marsden projects that in addition to attracting customers in Fairfax County, the casino will draw visitors from throughout the region, as the Silver Line provides a convenient connection from Dulles International Airport to Washington, DC and into Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

Yet, some senators involved with the debate claim that they’ve received “hundreds of emails and letters” registering their opposition.

Currently, Virginia has one permanent casino in operation — Rivers Casino Portsmouth — with temporary casinos operating in Bristol and Danville while permanent casinos undergo construction ahead of projected openings later this year.

Other sites approved in a November 2020 referendum opening the door to Virginia casino operators have not yet moved forward on construction — a proposed casino in Norfolk is going through that city’s review process, and voters twice rejected a specific proposal to put a casino in Richmond.

Photo by AP Photo/Steve Helber
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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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