Fairfax County Casino Bill Could Be Reintroduced in 2024, Virginia Senator Says

Posted on: October 12, 2023, 08:28h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2023, 12:35h.

The failed effort earlier this year to qualify Fairfax County as a possible location for a commercial casino could be reignited next year in the Virginia General Assembly.

Fairfax County Virginia casino Tysons
An aerial view of Tysons shows the city’s many corporate buildings. Virginia State Sen. David Marsden is considering legislation asking voters to approve a commercial casino resort in the Fairfax County area. (Image: Fairfax County)

In January, state Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke) and Del. Wren Williams (R-Stuart) filed identical bills that sought to bring Fairfax into the state’s gaming law passed in 2020. That aw authorized casinos in economically distraught cities and counties. At the time of the bill’s passage, Fairfax didn’t meet the law’s conditions, which included a region experiencing a population decline of at least 20% between 1990 and 2016 and a minimum poverty rate of 20% in 2017.

Only a handful of cities met the economic hardship requirements, including Richmond, Norfolk, Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. The 2020 law requires that casinos can only be fully authorized with voter support through a local referendum. All but Richmond have since ratified their gaming opportunities.

Marsden believes a casino in Northern Virginia, where the bulk of the state’s population resides, would deliver the state a considerably larger tax benefit and help diversify the Fairfax economy. While he initially said Reston would be an ideal spot for a casino resort, he now says Tysons — sometimes called Tysons Corner — might be a better fit.

Tysons Casino?

Tysons, along with nearby McLean, Vienna, and Fairfax, is a major business hub in Northern Virginia where many global companies are headquartered. Marsden thinks a casino resort, which would bring much-needed entertainment to the area, makes sense.

Speaking with FFXnow, a local news outlet covering Fairfax County, Marsden said Tysons is an “ideal place” for such a resort.

[Tyson’s] is becoming Fairfax County’s downtown, and we want to locate it on the Silver Line because that’s what the Silver Line was built for,” the state senator told FFXnow. “It wasn’t just to bring in commuters from Loudoun County or to get people to the airport. It was designed also to allow for higher density development: high-rise apartments and office buildings and what have you.”

Marsden has been approached by a real estate development firm called Comstock, a Reston-based developer of commercial, residential, retail, and mixed-use real estate. The firm’s notable commercial projects include Reston Station, a more than 250,000-square-foot mixed-use complex with retail, restaurants, and businesses.

Comstock reportedly wants to redevelop former auto dealerships on Chain Bridge Road. One development idea is a casino, should state lawmakers qualify Fairfax for gaming and local voters sign off on the plan through a ballot referendum.

Odds Presumably Long

The appetite for a casino resort in Fairfax County is presumably low, as many residents moved to the business-focused and largely residential county in search of a slightly more suburban lifestyle than living in D.C. or its immediate surrounding towns. More than six in 10 residents are white, and the median annual household income is nearly $134K, making the county one of the wealthiest in the U.S.

Marsden and Williams’ Fairfax casino bill was quickly withdrawn in January after Marsden fielded pushback and told reporters it would be better suited for consideration in 2024. Marsden said this week he might introduce a new Fairfax County casino bill in January.

Comstock earlier this year donated $10K to Marsden’s reelection campaign. Marsden is the favorite to win reelection over his Republican challenger Mark Vafiades in November.

Marsden has held the Fairfax County seat since winning the November 2009 election. Marsden previously served in the House of Delegates.