Reston Association urges members to fight expected casino bill

State Sen. Dave Marsden is expected to file legislation authorizing a voter referendum on a casino in Fairfax County for the 2024 General Assembly session (via Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash)

State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-35) has yet to unveil his planned bill to authorize a casino in Fairfax County, but Reston Association is going all in to prevent it from becoming law.

Following up on a formal statement of opposition approved in October by the board of directors, RA CEO Mac Cummins released a letter to the organization’s members yesterday pledging to take “decisive action” to block the possibility of a casino, which he characterized as a potential threat to “the residential character of our community.”

“We have decided to actively oppose the proposed casino and encourage our legislators to oppose this proposal as well,” Cummins wrote. “Our primary goal will be to preserve the quality of life in Reston for the over 60,000 people who call Reston home.”

Marsden, whose district encompasses Annandale, Springfield and George Mason University, joined Del. Wren Williams last year to introduce legislation that would’ve added Fairfax County to the small list of localities in Virginia eligible for a casino.

The bill specifically required the casino to be built in a mixed-use development that’s located outside the Capital Beltway and within a quarter-mile of a Silver Line Metro station — criteria that limited potential sites to Tysons, Reston and Herndon.

While the identical bills were withdrawn just days after being introduced, word that Marsden planned to revive the proposal, if reelected, emerged in September. Patch reported that Reston Station developer Comstock is seeking to build a casino near the Wiehle Metro station, though Marsden has argued it would be a better fit for Tysons as part of an entertainment district.

“That’s 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,” Marsden told FFXnow in the fall, noting that his goal is to give the county the option to have a casino.

The ultimate decision would lie with Fairfax County voters. Only five Virginia localities have approved casinos after voters in Richmond shot down a referendum twice, including one on the ballot in November, leading its backers to concede defeat.

Expected to be filed within the next week, Marsden’s proposal for the upcoming General Assembly session will be different from the previous bill, possibly calling for a performance space and conference center as part of the envisioned “entertainment district.”

Increased capacity for large gatherings was among the needs identified by the Tysons Strategic Plan released in December by the Tysons Community Alliance, which hasn’t taken an official stance on the idea of a casino.

Even without the official text of Marsden’s bill available, Cummins said in his letter that he will advocate against the legislation at the Fairfax County General Assembly delegation’s pre-2024 session public hearing tomorrow (Saturday). He and some RA board members also plan to make their case in Richmond after the session starts next Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Cummins encouraged RA members “to join our efforts to safeguard our vibrant future,” stating that the organization will provide updates on its website. His full message to Reston residents is below.

A Message on Our Opposition to the Proposed Reston Casino

Dear Reston Association Members:

I’m reaching out to share an update on news regarding a matter that may directly impact the future of our community here in Reston.

As you may already know, there is pending state legislation in Richmond to bring a casino development near our vicinity that has raised concerns among our members. During the 2023 legislative session, State Senator David Marsden advanced legislation authorizing a casino development in Fairfax County, with Reston suggested as a likely location. While the bill didn’t pass, lawmakers are already pledging to reintroduce it this coming session.

The Reston Association has been closely monitoring this situation and plans to take decisive action to protect the residential character of our community. We have decided to actively oppose the proposed casino and encourage our legislators to oppose this proposal as well. Our primary goal will be to preserve the quality of life in Reston for the over 60,000 people who call Reston home.

In the coming weeks, we will raise greater awareness about the potential consequences of the proposed casino via channels including but not limited to media outreach and informational tools to ensure our collective voice is heard. We hope to also collaborate with all concerned stakeholders including members, local businesses, and public officials – to amplify our messaging.

To date, Reston Association has taken the following actions to fight back against casino development:

  • Published a letter from the Board President in opposition to a casino and sent it to the Fairfax County elected officials, including members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
  • Published RA statement opposing casino to RA website and distributed to media.
  • Created a webpage to update the community on reston.org.
  • Proactively contacted all legislators in Fairfax County to advocate against a casino in our community.
  • Retained expert consultants to assist with legislative efforts in Richmond.
  • Met with Senator Marsden after the new year to discuss any proposed legislation that might be introduced in January.
  • Spoke at a local legislator town hall in January.

Next, I will address the Fairfax County General Assembly Delegation on Saturday, January 6 during a public hearing on the 2024 legislative agenda to voice our opposition to a casino. Additionally, a few members of the Board of Directors and I will travel to Richmond to meet with the Virginia Delegation when the Virginia legislature is in session.

To stay up to date on this issue, please visit our webpage. Thank you for your continued commitment to making Reston a wonderful place to work, play, and live. Your support is crucial in this endeavor, and we encourage you to join our efforts to safeguard our vibrant future. We will be in touch with ways for you to join us in this fight.

Sincerely,

Mac Cummins, AICP, CEO

Photo via Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

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