Legislation seeking to allow Petersburg and Tysons, Va., to be designated as commercial casino host locations cleared a Senate committee this week.
A Google Street View of where a Virginia state Senator has proposed allowing a commercial casino resort to be built in Fairfax County. The Tysons casino push is one of two legislative efforts this year to designate new locations for gaming. (Image: Google)
Virginia lawmakers in 2020 authorized five commercial casinos in cities needing economic revitalization. Voters in all but Richmond subsequently signed off on their casinos through local referendums.
Richmond is presumably done considering a Las Vegas-style casino resort after voters in the capital rejected a proposed development twice. State lawmakers are now jockeying the rights to bring the casino license to their jurisdictions.
State Sen. David Marsden (D-Fairfax) believes a casino in Northern Virginia in Tysons makes the most sense. State Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) thinks Petersburg is a better fit.
Marsden and Lucas’ respective legislation, Senate Bill 675 and Senate Bill 628, found favor this week in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee. Both have been directed to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
SB675 was approved 10-Y-4-N-1A, and SB628 garnered more support with a 13Y-2N outcome.
Marsden says Fairfax County needs new ways to offset its dwindling property tax base created as a result of employers allowing people to work from home. Tysons is home to many large office buildings, some of which remain vacant from the pandemic.
The Senator also thinks Virginia should allow residents to gamble other than patronizing casinos in Maryland, specifically MGM National Harbor across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital.
I’m tired of paying for Maryland schools,” Marsden said in reference to Maryland using its casino taxes to fund public education. “I think it’s time we paid for Virginia schools instead.”
There’s plenty of local opposition to a casino in Tysons, though the county government has yet to take a formal position. Several civic and government groups, including the Vienna Town Council, have formally opposed a gaming project.
Vienna is where Marsden wants to allow the casino. His legislation would only allow a casino at a location within a quarter-mile of an existing Metro Silver Line stop that’s part of a mixed-use development outside of the Dulles airport flight path, is within two miles of a shopping mall with at least 1.5 million square feet of indoor space, and is outside of the Interstate 495 Beltway. The bill’s language limits the casino to a former auto dealership at 8546 Leesburg Pike.
While Marsden wants a casino in Northern Virginia in one of the wealthiest counties in the state, Lucas says the 2020 gaming liberalization was to inject struggling towns with an economic catalyst. Petersburg is more supportive of the state legislative push to bring a casino to town, as the City Council and Mayor Samuel Parham have offered their support for the gaming campaign.
Along with Lucas’ SB628 advancing out of its first committee, separate legislation found unanimous 15-0 support in the Senate General Laws Committee.
Senate Bill 345 would prohibit an authorized casino host county or city from conducting more than one referendum asking voters to approve the gaming initiative. SB345 comes from Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania). It’s a companion bill to House Bill 1131 introduced by Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond).
The bills, of course, are designed to block Richmond from conducting a third casino referendum.
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