On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Virginia Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee carried over Senate Bill 675, introduced by Sen David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax), in a vote of 13 to 2, thereby accepting the Resources Subcommittee's recommendation to put the Fairfax County casino bill on hold until next year. Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlotte) made the motion to carry over SB 675 Casino gaming; eligible host localities.
Moments earlier, a substitute motion to “PBI the bill” [pass by indefinitely] by Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) failed in a 9 to 5 vote, with one abstention.
Speaking to his bill before the vote, Marsden reiterated his statements from the subcommittee meeting: the Board of Supervisors did not oppose this legislation; it is a massive revenue package for the Commonwealth of Virginia in a year and a time when the state's finances could use a boost. He added the claim that Fairfax County taxpayers would save "about $500-$600 per year on average with the casino and conference center."
Without a casino, Marsden said, "There's no reason right now for people to come to Fairfax County."
Boysko countered that the proposed legislation places a casino along the Metro Silver Line, the county's highest Class A real estate. A casino has only been mentioned in the county’s economic development discussions for the past year, not the last 20 years before that. The bill undermines the work of the entire community, she said.
"It is not something that I believe the Fortune 500s would like to have in the middle of their community," Boysko said. She offered that if one of her colleagues wanted a casino in their part of the county, "they are welcome to bring a bill next year."
Fairfax County Board Supervisor Walter Alcorn, D-Hunter Mill testified on Feb. 1 at a 4 p.m. subcommittee meeting and opposed Senate Bill 675, providing a path for a casino in Fairfax County.
”I am a strong no,” Alcorn said. "And I’d be happy to put in the record my letter expressing my concerns and also maps showing my district and which areas would be authorized under this legislation.”
Claudia Arko, the county's legislative staff, reminded committee members that they received letters from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman. Arko remarked, "I just wanted to make sure you saw that." That letter did not oppose the bill.
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Norfolk, chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, opened the microphone for others in the audience to testify.
“The Town of Vienna is strongly opposed to any casino, even the proposal of a casino in Tysons,” said Linda Colbert, mayor of the Town of Vienna. She explained that the town had been a part of the Tysons Comp Plan and strategic plan, and a casino was never mentioned. “Town of Vienna residents are just really, really strongly against this. I have not heard from one resident, actually, that is for it.”
Naila Alam, Town of Herndon councilmember, testified: “We are also opposing the casino bill,” Alam said.
The Virginia Senate subcommittee had considered several gaming bills at the 4 p.m. meeting before moving on to Sen. Marsden’s SB 675. The committee unanimously approved a motion to combine SB 628 with SB 345 to change the list of cities eligible to host a casino by removing Richmond and adding Petersburg because Richmond voters twice rejected a referendum for a casino there. When Lucas turned attention to SB 675, Senate staff provided a summary, reporting that the casino gaming bill established the site parameters and requirements for a Fairfax County Casino.
Marsden described at length SB 675's potential benefits to the county and the Commonwealth of Virginia as "enormous here."
"[It] would help with school construction funding and local needs. … Fairfax County is losing a lot of commercial real estate income,” Marsden said. "The revenue projected in the 70/30 split for Fairfax County is $94 million, and for the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is $300 million."
Virginia Diamond, of the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO, testified that the union "strongly supports this bill for the great jobs that it is going to create for members of our community."
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Norfolk, said she wanted updated projections from JLARC specific to Fairfax County, citing her desire to "keep this bill alive."
The JLARC study from 2019 says: “A casino in Northern Virginia … examined as part of this study, would increase statewide gaming tax revenue by an estimated additional $155 million (59 percent) and employ an additional 3,200 workers. A Northern Virginia casino is projected to attract substantial revenue from out-of-state customers and retain in state about $100 million that Virginia residents are currently spending at casinos in other states.”
Alcorn told the Connection: “Senate Bill 675 authorizing a casino in Tysons is dead for this year and carried over to 2025 after a vote by the Senate Resource Subcommittee. I'm very happy that the subcommittee members listened to the community and the people elected to represent them. It is a big victory for everyone who cares about good government," Alcorn said. He then thanked Town of Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert and Herndon Councilmember Naila Alam, for joining him in testifying at the meeting.