Virginia state Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke) is behind a legislative push to qualify Fairfax County as a permissible commercial casino host jurisdiction. He believes allowing a resort casino in the northern part of the state would provide much-needed economic diversification for the region.
Virginia Sen. David Marsden says the economic benefits a casino would deliver to Northern Virginia would be immense. Marsden this year plans to introduce legislation to allow Fairfax County voters to consider a casino. (Image: AP)
Marsden and Del. Wren Williams (R-Stuart) are supportive of legislation to allow Fairfax residents to vote on a casino proposal. Their legislative efforts are in conjunction with the Comstock Companies, an area commercial real estate developer that has expressed interest in building a casino along the Metro’s Silver Line.
Our industry for my entire life has been our proximity to the District of Columbia,” Marsden told the Fairfax County Times this week.
The longtime state lawmaker, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2005 and the state Senate in 2009, says a casino could rejuvenate the region after the pandemic greatly hurt commercial real estate.
“We have a lot of empty buildings. Office buildings are going down in value,” Marsden stated. “The pandemic killed ridership on the Metro. We have a $700 million Metro funding shortfall.”
Maryland Education Subsidy
Marsden says it’s time Virginia gives its northern residents a gambling option and a solution to stop the outflow of money to casinos in neighboring Maryland.
MGM Resorts opened a $1.4 billion integrated resort casino in Oxon Hill just outside DC across the Potomac River in December 2016. Live! Casino Maryland is also just 20 miles north of DC along the 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Maryland primarily uses its gaming taxes to fund K-12 public education.
We’re paying for Maryland schools, not ours,” Marsden declared. “We’re losing $150 million a year to MGM.”
MGM National Harbor is the top-grossing commercial casino outside of Las Vegas. The casino won about $884.5 million from gamblers in 2022.
Virginia’s casino law passed in 2020 qualifies only five cities for casinos. Voters in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol subsequently approved casinos. Richmond was the lone designated casino town to reject their gaming proposal, which they did so twice.
More Than Gaming
Marsden says a casino in Fairfax would be more than just slot machines, table games, and sports betting. The destination would likely include a convention center, something the area doesn’t currently have.
There are plenty of opponents to Marsden’s legislative plan. Along with multiple local governments passing ordinances formally opposing a casino, a grassroots coalition called “Citizens Opposed to Reston Casino” was recently formed.
“We, the concerned residents of Reston, Virginia, strongly oppose any efforts to bring a casino to our beloved community. We believe that introducing a casino would have detrimental effects on our community’s social fabric, safety, economic stability, and overall quality of life,” the group’s mission statement reads.
The group’s petition on Change.org has gathered more than 4,600 signatures.
The casino push, however, will be well funded by Comstock. The company has formed a political action committee called “Building a Remarkable Virginia” and has flushed it with more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Marsden plans to reintroduce his Fairfax casino bill during the 2024 General Assembly session. The session begins on the second Wednesday in January, which in 2024 is next Wednesday, Jan. 10. Since it’s an even-numbered year, the session runs for 60 days (as compared to only 30 in odd-numbered years).
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