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Report: New state legislation would allow casino in Tysons, but not Reston

A proposed state bill would allow a casino to be built in Tysons, if approved by voters (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) The new, much-debated state bill to allow a casino in Fairfax County has arrived with some limited but critical changes from its previous iteration.

Though the bill doesn’t appear to be available online yet, NBC4 reports that state Sen. Dave Marsden (D-35) has filed legislation that would add Fairfax County to the small list of Virginia localities eligible for a casino.

According to NBC4, the bill closely resembles a proposal that Marsden submitted and quickly withdrew last year, but the new iteration includes even more specific criteria for the potential casino site:

The eligible host locality described in subdivision A 6 shall be limited to a proposed site for a casino gaming establishment that is (i) located within one-quarter of a mile of an existing station on the Metro Silver Line, (ii) part of a coordinated mixed-use project development, (iii) outside of the Dulles airport flight path, (iv) within two miles of a major shopping destination containing not less than 1.5 million square feet of gross building area, and (v) outside of the Interstate 495 Beltway.

The addition of proximity to a “major shopping destination” as a requirement narrows the possible locations down to Tysons, specifically a “defunct auto dealership on Route 7,” Marsden told NBC4.

That rules out the possibility of a Reston casino. Patch reported in October that Reston Station developer Comstock was hoping to build a casino near the Wiehle Metro station, a proposal that drew strong objections from Reston Association and the general community.

Arguing that Fairfax County needs to diversify its commercial tax base, Marsden has said he sees Tysons as a more appropriate site, envisioning the casino as part of an entertainment district that could include a performing arts venue and a conference center.

In 2022, Comstock sought an amendment to Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan that would allow a residential and retail development to replace the Koons Chevy and Chrysler dealerships at 2000 and 2050 Chain Bridge Road near Route 7. The proposal didn’t advance, since county planners determined that an amendment wouldn’t be needed.

It’s unclear if that location is the one that Marsden has in mind, since those dealerships are still in operation. The Priority and Sheehy auto dealerships on Leesburg Pike (Route 7) near the Spring Hill Metro station closed up shop last summer, potentially setting the stage for redevelopment.

NBC4 reports that an unidentified, “interested” developer would like to build “a casino paired with a large convention center, hotels, restaurants, office space and residences.”

The Tysons Community Alliance, which released a strategic plan for Tysons in December that includes increased capacity for large gatherings as a priority, says it has no comment on Marsden’s casino proposal.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose district includes the Koons dealership site, has expressed opposition to a casino on Metro’s Silver Line, though his focus in the past has been on Reston in light of Comstock’s rumored interest.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who represents other parts of Tysons, says her office hasn’t received any project proposals. In the fall, she told FFXnow she’s open to discussing any proposal brought to her office but was skeptical a casino will materialize, since even if Marsden’s bill is signed into law, it would have to be approved by voters in a referendum.

In a new statement, Palchik says she still has reservations about the proposal, though she supports “increasing local authority in both land use policy and revenue diversification.”

“There are still too many questions that exist around where the income would go and how a location and provider would be selected,” she said. “I have not received any land use proposals, and the site selection and land use processes are not something that are decided at the General Assembly level. This bill was also not requested at the county level. We know that the market has shifted and we continue to review the big picture for the future of commercial and residential real estate, but this specific proposal has not yet provided the necessary data, impact, or outreach to our offices nor to the community.”

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