With casino approvals expanding down the East Coast into the mid-Atlantic, two jurisdictions remain resistant to their financial allure — the District and Virginia — and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Maryland’s sixth casino, expected to be built at National Harbor, would only be about a mile from the borders of both Virginia and the District. It is expected to draw many customers from the nation’s capital and the Old Dominion.
While both Virginia and the District have legalized some forms of gambling in the past (both have lotteries and the District recently legalized online gambling before repealing the law) neither has, nor is expected to have, an actual casino.
“There’s always been an attitude that the nation’s capital should not have a bricks-and-mortar casino,” D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown said. Mr. Brown, at-large independent who visits casinos himself and introduced the online gambling legislation, considers himself one of the more pro-gambling members of the council.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans agreed with Mr. Brown and noted that not only would the council have to pass legislation, but it would need approval from the U.S. Congress.
“Generally there is a lot of opposition in Congress to gambling in the nation’s capital, and among the residents, as well, in the District,” Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said.
Mr. Evans, along with D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 9 Democrat, introduced a bill in September that was meant to study how gambling in Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware affect the District. Although Mr. Evans said the bill likely will expire at the end of the year and not be reintroduced, he could see a benefit to a casino across the Potomac River in National Harbor.
“I think actually a National Harbor casino would be helpful to the city. You know it brings people to the region that might not come otherwise,” Mr. Evans said.
As for online gambling in the District, Mr. Brown said it is a good way to bring in tax revenue from the industry without having a casino that “possibly would also bring what I think a lot of social activists are concerned about, a different kind of element to the city.”
“Keep in mind that it’s already going on in the District of Columbia. Thousands of our residents are playing right now, today, without any regulations and without the city reaping any of those revenue benefits,” Mr. Brown said.
In Virginia, the story is different, but the conclusion is the same: no casinos.
Toni-Michelle Travis, an associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University, said this likely has to do with the Protestant tradition in the state.
“Many people would have reservations because of their religious beliefs,” Ms. Travis said.
Don Blake, chairman and president of the Virginia Christian Alliance, said his organization opposes gambling in the state because it damages individuals, families and culture, and is “against the principles in the Bible.”
“Gambling is a plague on people,” said Mr. Blake, who said the reason people gamble is because they “have desires that they can’t control sometimes.”