Virginia Players Alliance Pushing For Northern Virginia Casino In Tysons

Written By Phil West on June 11, 2024
Sen. David Marsden who put forth legislation for a Fairfax County casino

If you’re out and about at a summer festival in Northern Virginia this summer, you might see the Virginia Players Alliance (VPA).

The advocacy group, which bills itself on its website as “a coalition of Virginians dedicated to promoting fair gaming practices in the Commonwealth,” is in favor of putting a Virginia casino in Tysons. The initial proposal came earlier this year as a Virginia Senate bill from Sen. David Marsden.

VPA founder Ben Tribbett spoke with PlayVirginia about the need for a Northern Virginia casino.

Tysons casino bill in the works but tabled until 2025

The plan–to place the casino at a former auto dealership near the Spring Hill Metro stop on the DC Metro’s Silver Line in Tysons–cleared early legislative hurdles before a subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee decided to table it until 2025, pending more study.Google Map area for potential Tysons Casino

As more Fairfax County residents learned of the bill, several public officials registered their concern with it. They included Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, who earlier this year dubbed opposition to the bill one of the town council’s top legislative priorities.

According to Patch, Tribbet was manning an Alliance booth at the ViVa! Vienna festival last month. He is embarking on a summer campaign to drum up support for the Tysons casino. He feels the effort is needed, in part, to combat what he believes is unwarranted criticism of the plan from Colbert and other anti-casino officials who weighed in during the Tysons debate earlier this year.

He told PlayVirginia,

“I don’t think that some of the elected officials who were doing this have fully thought through what that messaging means and who they’re talking about, and why it is that they’re concerned about their constituents making these kinds of decisions. You hear these very vague, ‘the type of people who use casinos’ … however they want to frame that group … the type of people are those casinos are just your normal constituents that are in your district.”

Virginia Players Alliance sees need for a northern Virginia casino

Tribbett says that casinos like MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino in Prince George’s County, which he visits, and Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Charleston, WV, are siphoning potential casino-related tax revenues from the Commonwealth. He says,

“In Northern Virginia, you have a situation now where there are multiple casinos from other states that are sitting on our border … those casinos are drawing a lot of Virginia revenue out of state and into the coffers of Maryland and West Virginia. When JLARC did a study about this in 2019, they studied the possibility of a Northern Virginia casino and found that for revenue to the Commonwealth, it would exceed all the other casinos combined. So it’s a humongous amount of money because of the size of the market in Northern Virginia.”

He went on to say, “We think it has the opportunity to supercharge what this casino could do. We think it could be one of the biggest revenue-producing casinos in the United States and fund hundreds of millions of dollars annually to needs around the Commonwealth.”

Tribbett notes that “thousands” of people are signed up with the Virginia Players Alliance and says the group will update pro-gambling citizens on the Tysons casino plan. While the initial 2020 referendum allowing casinos in Virginia allotted only five licenses, Tribbett pointed out that the General Assembly can pass legislation allowing additional licenses as it sees fit.

Three Virginia casinos are currently in operation, and Norfolk and Petersburg are working to resolve separate issues, slowing their pathways to getting their own casinos. But none of the casinos are located in Northern Virginia, which the Northern Virginia Regional Commission says has grown to more than 2.5 million people and could surpass 3 million by 2040.

Photo by Steve Helber / Pool AP
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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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