A 4 to 0 vote by the Virginia Senate Subcommittee on Resources made the day for Fairfax County Board Supervisor Walter Alcorn, D-Hunter Mill, on Feb. 1. Alcorn testified in person at the 4 p.m. subcommittee meeting and opposed Senate Bill 675, introduced by Dave Marsden, providing a path for a casino in Fairfax County. According to the bill, Alcorn said that approximately one-third of the locations in SB 675 could be in the Hunter Mill district.
”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."
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 said his job as a Fairfax senator is offering the county options for revenue issues. He 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, and the decline in Metro ridership has added greatly to the burden,” Marsden said.
Asking anyone to correct him if he was mistaken, 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." Marsden said Virginia clientel account for thirty percent of the revenue from the MGM casino establishment at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland. “A $250 million loss to the Commonwealth,” he said.
Sen. Lucas inquired whether the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors provided feedback on his bill. Marsden answered, “Occasionally since the beginning of this process.” He mentioned that the board did not take a stand against the bill during their most recent meeting but instead sent a letter outlining their concerns about the process. “I think that speaks volumes — the fact that they did not step forward and oppose the legislation,” Marsden said.
Marsden said that his bill SB 675 has "the heavy support of labor in Northern Virginia. … I've heard estimates of 3,200 to 4,200 jobs and of memoranda of understanding to provide not only jobs in the construction part of this but also in the operation."
Virginia Diamond, president 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."
Wrapping up his comments, Marsden said Fairfax County's composite index dropped 10 points. “What that means is [that] in a county that has one out of every seven students in the Commonwealth of Virginia, when we take ten percent more from the state pie that's been created after dealing with all the local composite index decisions and calculations, that's significant." He added, “I don't want us to become more of a taker. I want us to be more of a giver to the rest of the state."
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Norfolk, said she was concerned about the JLARC study (2019), its limited findings regarding a casino in Northern Virginia, and wanted updated projections specific to Fairfax County, citing her desire to "keep this bill alive."
Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-Mechanicsville, questioned whether the JLARC study (2019) or another report indicated how much the Commonwealth would benefit financially from establishing a casino in Fairfax County.
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.”
The best course of action, said Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-Mechanicsville, would be to carry the bill over and then look at the data from JLARC. Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredricksburg, concurred and seconded the motion.
“So this is going to be a voice vote,” Lucas said. “All in favor, say aye." No one voiced opposition. The motion passed.
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.