As promised in my Oct. 25 newsletter, I am providing you with the information I requested from County Executive Bryan Hill on Oct. 24 regarding the state and county processes for possible casino authorization. While there is no active proposal at this time, I continue to oppose the placement of a casino in the Hunter Mill District. My hope (and bet) is that the best way for the community, my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, and our General Assembly delegation to get to this same conclusion is to maximum transparency of the process and have a thorough community vetting of the relevant facts.
Below are the responses to my Oct. 24 questions to the county executive. It should be noted that he added additional information regarding casino operations, which was not included in my list of questions. In addition, my question about whether a referendum would need to specify the location of a casino is still to be answered. I am also seeking additional clarification on the timing of the selection of any casino operator by the Board of Supervisors and a referendum. Likewise, I am interested in information on the role of Richmond’s mayor in requesting that the General Assembly authorize a referendum for that jurisdiction (two casino referendums have now failed, the most recent one in this year's Nov. 7 General Election).
If there are additional questions you would like me to ask as follow-up items please email them to me by this Friday, Nov. 17, 5 p.m. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Question: Please verify whether all 5 local jurisdictions in Virginia where state law currently authorizes a casino (Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond) formally or informally requested that the General Assembly authorize a casino in their jurisdiction, and how that request was made.
- County Executive Response: The path for authorization for the 5 local jurisdictions was different. In some cases, localities expressed support for casino authority by passing resolutions or by working with legislators to ensure their locality was included in the final legislation. In at least one case, in the City of Richmond, there was never a clear indication of support to the General Assembly for casino authority. As you probably know, two casino referendums in Richmond have failed. At present, casinos have opened in Bristol, Portsmouth, and Danville, with an additional casino planned in Norfolk in partnership with the federally recognized Pamunkey Indian Tribe.
My Question: Under Virginia law, what is considered to be a casino, versus, for example, a location or event that has electronic gaming machines?
- County Executive Response: Chapter 41 defines a “casino” as a location where games such as blackjack, poker, craps, slots, and similar games occur. Va. Code § 58.1-4100. These are traditional “gambling” games, and these locations must be licensed by the Virginia Lottery Board.
My Question: What process would the Board of Supervisors use to “select a preferred casino gaming operator” as called for in the state law authorizing casino gambling? What would be the timing of such a selection process as it relates to authorization by the General Assembly and a countywide referendum?
- County Executive Response: Utilizing the evaluation factors outlined in § 58.1-4107 the County would be encouraged to conduct a competitive selection process. Competitive selection options include: 1) Competitive Negotiations (Request for Proposals) and 2) Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA) Solicited Proposal process.
My Question: Does the county’s current zoning ordinance include a casino use, or would it need to be amended?
- County Executive Response: If we had to make a determination today, we would likely say a casino is most similar to Public Entertainment… Under this determination, a casino would be permitted in those specific districts with Board of Supervisors approval. However, on a case by case basis, if a casino was proposed in a form consistent with the approved layout, there are existing developments in Tysons and Reston that could fit a casino into their current approval (with no additional Board approval). That said, any casino proposal that could meet those requirements is likely to be very limited.
My Question: Would the location of a casino need to specified in an area plan of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan?
- County Executive Response: At this time staff does not believe a casino would need to be identified independently in the Comprehensive Plan if the proposed use (non-residential) and intensity are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan recommendations for the proposed site.
My Question: If a bill such as SB 1543 and HB 2499 were ultimately passed and signed by the Governor, would the required countywide referendum be legally required to specify the casino location or could multiple potential locations be authorized in the referendum?
- Answer forthcoming from county executive.
(This is in addition to the questions I asked) Did the previous legislation specify anything regarding the casino’s operation – location, hours of operation, food and beverage service, accessory uses like convention space, etc.?
- County Executive Response: An ordinance defining operation would be an avenue to address hours of operation.
I look forward to a continued dialogue on this topic and will provide you with timely updates as they become available. I encourage residents if they don't already to subscribe to my e-newsletter for these updates and other information important to Hunter Mill District.