Virginia Town Council Pushes Back On Fairfax County Casino

Written By J.R. Duren on December 11, 2023
Red Casino Sign With Banned Symbol

Add Vienna to the list of Virginia towns and cities that don’t want a casino.

About a month after Richmond voters decisively defeated a push to bring a casino to the state’s capital, the Vienna Town Council made it clear during its first meeting of the month that blocking a casino in Fairfax County (where Vienna is) would be a top priority during its 2024 legislative session.

How Vienna’s anti-casino position unfolded

Virginia casinos are best viewed through an 80/20 lens — 80% of the state’s casino industry is business as usual, but 20% is a complete mess.

A few years ago, state lawmakers approved a casino legalization framework that allowed casinos in five economically disadvantaged cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond.

Voters in the first four cities approved casinos, but Richmond voters rejected a casino in two separate votes. That double rejection left the door open for another city or region to get legal approval for a casino.

Petersburg is pushing for a casino, and there’ve been rumors that a casino pitch might pop up in Fairfax County and, specifically, in Tysons Corner.

If it were up to the Vienna Town Council, a casino would never be in its corner of the state.

Council members come out hard against casino in Vienna

Every year, the Vienna Town Council approves legislative priorities for the following year. Earlier this year, the town released an initial draft of 18 priorities for 2024.

When reports of a Fairfax County casino swirled, a 19th priority was added: rejecting any type of casino gaming in the county.

Vienna Town Attorney Steven Brigilia presented the new priority at the Vienna Town Council meeting, noting that several council members proposed the new priority and that council member Chuck Anderson suggested the wording.

Here’s the text of the no-casino priority:

“The Town of Vienna opposes any action to establish or facilitate the establishment of, any gambling casino in Fairfax County. The Town particularly opposes any such action which would lead to the establishment of a gambling facility in the Tysons area.

Any such facility likely would have substantial deleterious effects on the quality of life in Vienna, including increased traffic, additional costs to locally owned independent businesses, and erosion of public morals.”

Vienna council approves making no-casino rule a higher priority

Council member Nisha Patel requested the council move the no-casino emphasis up in the council’s priorities. “This casino thing is actually pretty imminent and it’s actually a real threat,” Patel said in the Vienna Town Council meeting.

Council member Howard J. Springsteen supported the priority, agreeing with Patel and saying there’s no place for a casino in Fairfax County.

Anderson drove home the council’s fear of adding a casino anywhere near Vienna, noting that one proposed site in neighboring Tysons Corner was a little too close for comfort.

“I mean, can you imagine that: What it would do to traffic? What it would do to driving up rents for our local business in town, not to mention the other types of businesses it could potentially attract,” Anderson said. “It would be a real body blow to Vienna.”

Anderson’s impassioned plea seemed to sway the council. It voted to move up the casino from priority No. 6 to No. 2, thus giving it increased scrutiny and focus in the 2024 legislative agenda.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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