Casinos hold little allure for D.C., Virginia

Jurisdictions unswayed by nearby outlets

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Even with a growing and more liberal population in the northern part of the state, Mr. Blake said the makeup of the Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate make potential casinos decades away.

Ms. Travis also noted the population boom in the northern part of the state, and said “this won’t be the only issue,” between this region and the rest of the state.

“I think very shortly the priorities of Northern Virginia will dominate the state versus the priorities of our more rural legislature,” she said.

The economic strength of the state, Ms. Travis said, is also something that should keep Virginia from needing to look to casinos for added revenue.

“We have a very balanced budget,” she said. “I think that would be a very last resort for legislatures to consider as a way to raise money.”

Still, Virginia state Sen. L. Louise Lucas has pre-filed a bill for the 2013 General Assembly session that would at least look at casinos in the state, albeit in a limited nature.

“It’s been so long since the question has come up,” said Robert Whitacre, who consults for Ms. Lucas, Portsmouth Democrat, on casinos.

Mr. Whitacre disagreed with the religious argument, saying that while that may have been true 10 or 15 years ago, it is not the case today. The best-case situation, Mr. Whitacre said, would be to authorize casino gambling in certain jurisdictions based on community support.

If casinos were to be legalized in either Virginia or the District, casino companies almost certainly would jump at the opportunity to build, but they’re not trying to push the door open.

Karen Bailey, director of public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc., said the company has not to her knowledge made an effort to push for casinos in the District or Virginia, and that it is a “matter of local appetite.”

“We’re a company that’s always focused on expansion and new opportunities, so we never say no to examining new opportunities, but it’s too early for us to speculate on, you know, what we would do,” Ms. Bailey said.

Gordon Absher, vice president of public affairs at MGM Resorts International, the company that likely will build a casino in National Harbor, said there are a lot of misperceptions about gambling.

From his personal experience, Mr. Absher found that in Maryland the definition of a casino was a slot operation, whereas MGM is in the “destination resort business.” Mr. Absher said 60 percent of the revenue comes from nongambling sources such as hotel rooms, events and food, and this is, “one of the first things that we begin to communicate when a new market starts to consider bringing in gaming.”

Mr. Absher and Ms. Bailey both mentioned that their companies will not try and push their industry onto an uninterested public.

“We don’t create new markets,” Mr. Absher said.

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