Virginia Cities Want Rejected Richmond Casino

Since Richmond, Virginia voters rejected a casino for the second time, officials in other communities, including Fairfax County and Petersburg, are moving forward plans to host the state’s fifth authorized casino.

Virginia Cities Want Rejected Richmond Casino

Following voters’ second rejection of a Richmond, Virginia casino, officials in other cities are considering whether their communities should try to become the fifth casino-host city, as authorized by the legislature in 2020. Voters in the other four authorized cities−Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol and Danville−approved casinos, which are open or under construction.

The enabling legislation required the casino host city to have experienced a population loss of at least 20 percent between 1990 and 2016 and a minimum poverty rate of 20 percent in 2017. Now, however, state Senator David Marsden and state Del. Wren Williams plan to reintroduce proposals allowing a casino in Fairfax County, one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S.

The legislators said a casino in suburban Washington, D.C. would economically benefit the Northern Virginia county as well as aid the struggling Metro Silver Line and its new $3 billion, 11.4-mile stretch connecting Reston and Loudoun County. Marsden and Williams said Comstock Companies, a Reston-based mixed-use real estate developer, has expressed interest in a casino.

However, several local officials are opposed to a casino. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he has asked the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors whether they believe they have the authority to place a casino referendum before voters.

In response, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said the county believes a casino could be classified as “public entertainment” and be allowed in commercial retail areas without rezoning. Hill said, “Under this determination, a casino would be permitted in those specific districts with Board of Supervisors approval.”

But in response to Hill, John Farrell, president of the Reston Association Board of Directors, said, “Reston Association assures its membership that it is committed to opposing the establishment of a casino. We are aware of no location in Reston which has been approved as a site for ‘public entertainment’ and find Mr. Hill’s statement baffling.”

Petersburg officials also are eyeing a casino once again. Following the first Richmond rejection, state Senator Joe Morrissey sponsored a bill allowing a Petersburg casino instead. He lined up Baltimore-based Cordish Companies to propose a $1.4 billion casino resort. The measure ultimately was unsuccessful.

But recently, the Petersburg City Council included in its legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session approval to hold a casino referendum by 2025.

City Manager March Altman said, “This venture could offer residents employment opportunities that surpass the current median household income of roughly $44,000 per year and individual income of about $26,000 per year. It is estimated that as many as 1,800 direct jobs could be created annually, along with up to 1,000 construction jobs.”

In a statement, city spokesperson Joanne Williams said a casino referendum is a “top priority, allowing citizens to vote on an “entertainment center, hotel, restaurants, and retail” in addition to gambling. With a vote of approval by citizens, this entertainment complex will provide a much-needed economic boost to Petersburg’s flat tax base.”

A 2022 study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission indicated a Petersburg casino would generate $12 million in annual gaming revenue for the city.