Fairfax County Supervisors Weigh in on Tysons Casino

Posted on: January 29, 2024, 03:34h. 

Last updated on: February 2, 2024, 10:37h.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors says they weren’t privy to legislative discussions about potentially allowing a casino resort in Tysons. That’s before a powerful state Senator filed a bill in Richmond earlier this month.

Fairfax casino Virginia legislation
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors pose for a photograph ahead of their first meeting on Jan. 23, 2024. The local government officials in Virginia have formally come out in opposition to legislative efforts to bring a casino to Tysons. (Image: Fairfax County)

On Friday night — facing the wrath of residents for seemingly not taking a position on Virginia state Sen. David Marsden’s (D-Fairfax) public support for a casino in Tysons — Fairfax supervisors told their constituents the legislative push was news to them, too.

What happened here is that people in a vacuum worked on a plan and went to Richmond without coordinating with Fairfax County,” Jeff McKay, the chair of the county board, told DC News Now. “None of those groups have come formally, sat down with me and said, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re proposing. This is what our bill looks like. Will Fairfax County engage in conversations with us?'”

The majority of the county supervisors expressed opposition toward a possible casino in Tysons. The supervisors subsequently drafted and sent a letter to several state lawmakers to express the county’s hostility to Marsden’s gaming legislation.

County Submits Position

In the county’s letter by McKay, the supervisors say they didn’t immediately take a position on the rumored casino legislation. That’s because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state that restricts local governments’ authority. The chair said that’s why the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors doesn’t typically embrace or oppose legislation.

However, when it comes to a possible casino, the supervisors say they should have a seat at the table.

“Unlike other jurisdictions that received the authority to hold a referendum to host a casino, Fairfax County did not seek such authority and has not been substantively involved in the development of the casino concept envisioned by stakeholders and the patron of the legislation,” McKay wrote to House Speaker Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), and Senate Minority Leader Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville).

It likely comes as no surprise to you that the location and concept included in the legislation and reported in the media has generated significant community concern and opposition,” McKay continued. “Furthermore, since a community engagement process was not conducted prior to the bill being introduced as it was in other jurisdictions, we believe the bill in its current form is likely to result in strong community opposition to the future referendum.”

McKay countered Marsden’s claims that a casino is needed to save Fairfax County’s property tax base, which was dealt revenue setbacks because of COVID-19 and more workers being allowed to telework. McKay said the supervisors “are confident that Tysons is poised for continued success” and will continue to attract new businesses to its many office buildings.

McKay didn’t ask for any action by the lawmakers but instead said the board decided to submit the unsolicited testimony about its stance on the casino dilemma.   

Widespread Opposition

County supervisors said Friday that they’ve fielded a slew of opposition from community members and little support.

“I’m not hearing a lot of different things from my constituents. I’m hearing uniformed opposition,” said Fairfax Supervisor James Bierman, representing the Dranesville District.

McKay said the four other casinos approved in Virginia receive just a quarter of the gross revenue won by the house.

“If this casino generated $200 million and only $50 million of that came back to Fairfax County, and I was left with all the problems related to a casino? That’s not a good deal for my taxpayers. We’re not in this to be the state’s ATM.”

Marsden said he’s been publicly discussing the idea of authoring legislation to designate Fairfax as a casino host for over a year. He says the casino would be only one element of the project, as the destination would also bring much-needed nightlife, entertainment, and a large convention center to Tysons.

Marsden says the casino would also give people in Northern Virginia a place to gamble other than traveling to neighboring Maryland.

Marsden’s Fairfax casino statute, Senate Bill 675, passed the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee last week by a 10-4 vote. The bill has since moved to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.