Published on: January 29, 2024 at 03:34 h.
Last updated on: 28 January 2024 at 07:01 h.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors says they were not privy to legislative discussions about the possibility of allowing a casino resort in Tysons before a powerful state senator introduced a bill in Richmond earlier this month.
On Friday night, facing a fury of criticism from residents for apparently not taking a position on Virginia Sen. David Marsden’s (D-Fairfax) public support for a casino in Tysons, Fairfax supervisors told their constituents that the legislative push was new to them; also.
“What happened here is people in a vacuum worked on a plan and went to Richmond without coordinating with Fairfax County,” County Council President Jeff MacKay said. DC News Now. “None of these groups have formally come, sat down with me and said, ‘Here’s what we’re proposing. This is what our bill looks like. Will Fairfax County engage in conversations with us?’
A majority of county supervisors have expressed opposition to a potential casino in Tysons. Supervisors then drafted a letter and sent it to several state legislators expressing the county’s hostility to Marsden’s gaming legislation.
County advances position
In the district letter written by McKay, supervisors say they have not immediately taken a position on the rumored casino legislation because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state that restricts the power of local governments. That’s why the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors typically doesn’t adopt or oppose legislation, the chief said.
However, when it comes to a potential casino, supervisors say they should have a seat at the table.
“Unlike other jurisdictions that have received the authority to hold a referendum to host a casino, Fairfax County did not seek such authority and was not substantively involved in developing the casino concept envisioned by stakeholders and the sponsor of the legislation,” McKay wrote. To House Speaker Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), House Majority Leader Charnell Herring (D-Alexandria), House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), and Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon ), and Senate Minority Leader Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville).
“It is probably no surprise to you that the site and concept included in the legislation and advertised in the media have generated significant concern and opposition in the community,” MacKay continued. “Furthermore, because no community engagement process was conducted prior to introducing the bill as has been the case in other jurisdictions, we believe the bill in its current form is likely to generate strong community opposition to a future referendum.”
McKay responded to Marsden’s claims that a casino is needed to save Fairfax County’s property tax base, which has taken revenue setbacks due to COVID-19 and allow more workers to work remotely. McKay said supervisors are “confident that Tysons is poised for continued success” and will continue to attract new business to its many office buildings.
MacKay did not ask lawmakers to take any action, but instead said the board decided to provide unsolicited testimony about its position on the casino dilemma.
County supervisors said Friday they have faced a lot of opposition from community members and not a lot of support.
“I’m not hearing a lot of different things from my constituents. I’m hearing uniformed opposition,” said Fairfax Supervisor James Berman, who represents the Dranesville area.
The other four casinos approved in Virginia receive only a quarter of the total revenue won by the house, McKay said.
“If this casino makes $200 million, and only $50 million of that goes back to Fairfax County, and you’re left with all the problems with the casino? That’s not a good deal for the taxpayers. We’re not in this to be the state’s ATM.”
Marsden said he had been publicly discussing the idea of authoring legislation to designate Fairfax as casino host for more than a year. He says the casino will be just one element of the project, as the destination will also bring nightlife, entertainment and a large convention center to Tysons.
Marsden says the casino will give people in Northern Virginia a place to gamble other than traveling to neighboring Maryland.
The Marsden Fairfax Casino Act — Senate Bill 675 — passed the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee last week by a vote of 10 to 4. The bill has since moved to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.