Some news that is now nearly a year old got renewed attention recently causing many people in our community to become very concerned. Near the end of the 2023 General Assembly session the developer of Reston Station announced that he was interested in building a gambling casino at Reston Station or nearby. The General Assembly was considering at the time requests from several other communities to have a referendum on locating a gambling casino in their communities. The developer came to see me within days of adjournment and told me of his interest and asked for my support. I could not have been more emphatic in saying “no way” would I support such an idea. He was more successful with two Democratic State Senators who agreed to submit an amendment that would add Reston and Tysons Corner to the communities where referenda would be held to approve opening a casino. Fortunately, with the forceful work of Senators Janet Howell and Jennifer Boysko the amendment was rejected without a hearing.
In recent weeks came news that legislation will be introduced in the coming legislative session to approve a referendum establishing a gambling casino in Reston or Tysons Corner. As near as I can determine, the response in those communities has been universally in opposition to such a proposal. Last week I talked with both Senators Scott Surovell and Dave Marsden about their intentions. They were less than clear as to what they intend to do, but you can be sure that I delivered a message to them about the community’s strong opposition. I also told them that if they were supportive of a gambling casino they should propose it for the districts they represent. I am pleased that Karen Keys-Gamarra who is running for the House of Delegates to succeed me and Senator Jennifer Boysko who will represent Reston under the most recent legislative redistricting have expressed their opposition to a gambling casino locating in Reston.
Of course legislators can introduce bills that affect districts other than their own. The legislature has been consistent in requiring that a referendum be held in communities in which a casino is proposed that must be approved by local voters before a casino license is issued. You can expect that big-money developers who want to build and operate a casino will spend huge amounts of money to get their proposals approved by local voters. There will be promises of return to the community of tax dollars that will support public infrastructure and programs. The five casinos that are already operational in Virginia are located in low income areas. You can be sure that the greatest chunk of money from the operation of a casino will go to the owners and developers and not the persons who are lured into them to gamble or who live in the locality.
Expansion of gambling casinos will likely increase in the state in future years. The horse is already out of the barn. The Republican floor leader in the House of Delegates represents the developer of a proposed Reston casino. Rest assured that I will continue in my future role of private citizen to make it clear that Reston does not want or need a gambling casino!