National Harbor casino could make Virginia rethink gambling policy

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Photo - Slot machine (ThinkStock photo)
Slot machine (ThinkStock photo)
Local,Maryland,Virginia,Matt Connolly,Gambling

Virginia's lack of casino gambling is a sharp contrast with neighboring Maryland, where the number of casinos will double in the next four years.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, however, would legalize casinos and move to bring one to the Hampton Roads region.

Frank Fantini, CEO of Fantini Research and publisher of its Gaming Report, said the bill was unlikely to pass. He added, though, that the area's tourist attractions and lack of local competition could make for a profitable casino.

Surrounded by southern states that largely eschew casinos, Virginia is under less pressure than Maryland to raise revenue through gambling.

"Nowhere in the southeast are there commercial casinos," Fantini said. "I would say it's a reflection of the conservative nature of those states."

With an expected $800 million luxury casino set to open in National Harbor in 2016, Northern Virginia may start to see its residents leave to spend money in Maryland. If that happens with enough frequency, Fantini said, Virginia lawmakers might change their tune to keep that revenue in-state.

"If you have a casino at National Harbor, it's pretty reasonable to believe that some of the Northern Virginia legislators might start thinking about it," he said. "Whether they're just as well-off getting revenue from other sources is a question for policymakers."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner