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Report: Comstock wants a casino in Reston, but state legislation still needed

Reston Station from the Wiehle Avenue bridge (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A casino may still be on the table for Fairfax County, though it faces some long odds to becoming a reality.

According to a new report by Patch, the real estate company Comstock is interested in building a casino in the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station area, where it owns nearly 80 acres of land for the still-growing Reston Station development.

The company’s plans were shared by “several local officials,” Patch said. A public relations representative for Comstock didn’t return a request for comment from FFXnow by press time.

Before it breaks out the slot machines, however, Comstock will need to convince both the Virginia General Assembly and voters to allow a casino operator in Fairfax County, a daunting prospect given the skepticism that the proposal faced when it first emerged in January.

An informal, unscientific poll by FFXnow found that 60% of respondents wouldn’t support having a casino in the county, though about a quarter of respondents did back the idea.

State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and Del. Wren Williams (R-9) introduced identical bills on Jan. 20 that would’ve added any county with over 1 million residents — a criteria only met by Fairfax County — to Virginia’s list of localities eligible to host casino gaming facilities.

The legislation specifically stated:

The site of the casino gaming establishment shall be limited to a location that is (i) within one quarter of a mile an existing station on the Metro Silver Line, (ii) part of a coordinated mixed-use project development, (iii) outside the Dulles airport flight path, and (iv) outside the Interstate 495 Beltway

Both bills were quickly stricken from the legislative agenda at their patrons’ request, but Marsden told Patch that he plans to reintroduce his bill if he’s reelected this November. Facing off against Republican nominee Mark Vafiades, Marsden is seeking to replace the retiring Dick Saslaw in the new 35th District, which encompasses Annandale, Springfield, Mantua, Kings Park West and George Mason University.

If his bill becomes law, it would send the matter to voters with a ballot referendum in a future election, according to Marsden.

“We’ve started down the road of a severe downturn in the commercial real estate business,” Marsden said to Patch. “People who needed 50,000 square feet of office space now need 5. It’s going to devalue the market and there’s going to be less taxes because there’ll be a lot more in the way of vacancies.”

While Marsden told Patch that he thinks “the county is interested in taking a look at” the possibility of a casino, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who represents Reston, “opposes putting a casino on the Silver Line,” his office confirmed to FFXnow.

According to Patch, State Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33) — who is campaigning against Republican Matt Lang to represent Reston, Herndon, Great Falls and McLean in the 38th Senate District — said she’s “aware that Comstock would like a casino at the Reston station” but remains “strongly opposed” to the proposal.

Virginia currently only allows casino gambling in five cities. So far, establishments have opened in Bristol, Portsmouth and, most recently, Danville. Norfolk has a casino on the way, and Richmond voters will weigh in on a proposed project this fall.

The state’s existing casinos have exceeded revenue expectations, collectively bringing in $308 million in net revenue, as of the end of the fiscal year in June, according to the Virginia Mercury.