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Comstock Brings Democratic Leaders To Site Of Planned Casino In Reston



RESTON, VA — Perhaps to bolster its efforts to build a casino at or near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, Comstock scheduled fundraisers for two Democratic Party candidates who may be leading the Virginia General Assembly during the 2024 Session.

On Sept 19, Dwight Schar, a former owner of the Washington Commanders and founder of NVR, Inc., and his son-in-law Chris Clemente, who happens to be the CEO of Comstock, hosted a fundraiser for Virginia House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth). If the Democrats regain control of the House of Delegates in November, Scott would likely become the speaker of the house.

The fundraiser took place at at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse at 1902 Reston Metro Plaza, which is located at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station. The suggested sponsorship levels ranged from $500 to $10,000.

Find out what’s happening in Restonwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Related: Casino Planned Near Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station By Comstock

Schar and Clemente are also planning to host fundraiser on Oct. 16 for state Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Burke) and Virginia Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Alexandria) at 1901 Reston Metro Plaza, which is also at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) will be the event’s special guest.

Find out what’s happening in Restonwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Talk of building a casino first came to light when Marsden and Del. Wren Williams (R-Stuart) introduced similar casino bills in January, during the final days of the first half of the 2023 Virginia General Assembly session.

Even though Marsden and Williams each withdrew their bills within a few days, Marsden told Patch last Thursday that if reelected he was likely to reintroduce his casino bill in the next legislative session. He is currently running against Republican Mark Vafiades for the 35 District state senate seat.

The Virginia Code only allows for casinos to be built in host cities with a population of least 1 million and a county executive form of government. Fairfax County is the only locality in the state to fit that description, according to the Washington Business Journal, which broke the story in January.

Language in Marsden’s bill narrows the location of a “casino gaming establishment” to “within one quarter of a mile of an existing station on the Metro Silver Line, (ii) part of a coordinated mixed-use project development, (iii) outside the Dulles airport flight path, and (iv) outside the Interstate 495 Beltway.”

With the opening of Phase II of the Silver Line extension last November, Fairfax County now has seven stations where a new casino could feasibly be located: Tysons, Greensboro, Spring Hill, Wiehle-Reston East, Reston Town Center, Herndon, and Innovation Center.

Marsden told Patch that he thought the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station was one of the ones that Comstock was looking at as a place to build a casino. His own preference was Tysons.

Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) announced his retirement, meaning he would not seek reelection in November. Surovell, who is the current vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, is seen by some as Saslaw’s likely successor.

On Tuesday, Surovell told Patch that building a casino in Fairfax County would be something that should be explored.

“I’m tired of seeing 150 million Virginia dollars go over the bridge in Maryland to pay for their schools every year,” he said.

Many Fairfax County residents cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and gamble at MGM National Harbor in Maryland. The casino generated $72.15 million in revenue in July, according to PlayUSA.

This flyer advertises the Sept. 19 fundraiser hosted by Comstock CEO Chris Clemente and his father-in-law, Dwight Schar, for VA House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth). If the Democrats take back control of the House of Delegates in November, Scott would likely become the speaker of the house.

Maryland’s six casinos pull in $962.2 million in annual tax revenue for the state, according to the American Gaming Association. The money is used to fund critical school construction projects and supports small and minority-owned businesses, as well as the state’s horse racing industry.

As to whether Surovell would support a casino at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, he said the board of supervisors would ultimately decide the location of a casino. Passing the bill and having the governor sign it would give the supervisors that authority.

“I think Fairfax County is extremely reliant on commercial property taxes,” Suvovell said. “The residential rates are low and there’s a commercial property tax crunch coming due to all the remote work, and I think this could help to provide a cushion for that.”

This flyer advertises the Oct. 16 fundraiser hosted by Comstock CEO Chris Clemente and Dwight Schar for state Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Burke) and Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Alexandria). As the vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the Virginia Senate, Surovell is seen by some as a likely candidate to become the Senate Majority Leader in the 2024 Virginia General Assembly session.

Putting a casino on the Silver Line made sense, according to Surovell.

“The Silver Line was built to encourage high-density development, and it was built also to support tourism from Dulles Airport,” he said. “It seems to me that, that a development like that would be consistent with the entire reason the Silver Line was constructed, and taxpayers invested billions of dollars to make it a reality.”

In addition, a casino on the Silver Line would benefit Metro, which Survell said was in desperate need of additional ridership.

“I think that will actually encourage ridership from both directions and not just commuter travelers,” he said.

Between 2019 and 2023, donors the Virginia Public Access Project described as being in the “Gaming – Casinos/Lottery/Bingo” industry contributed $60,750 to Surovell’s campaign committee.

When asked if those contributions would influence his support for Marsden’s casino bill if it were resubmitted in the 2024 General Assembly session, Surovell said that contributions don’t affect his decision making and that he’s consistently supported the expansion of casino gambling in Virginia.

Asked why he was going to the Oct. 16 fundraiser at Reston Station, Survell said that as a member of the Democratic Party’s leadership in the General Assembly most of the fundraisers he attended were in other districts. He estimated about 80 percent of the fundraisers he went to were outside his home district of Alexandria.

“I live right across the MGM casino and I’ve watched probably now, a billion dollars of Virginia money flowing to Maryland to pay for their schools,” he said. “There are other surrounding states that are cannibalizing Virginia’s revenue for their own purposes. I’ve long felt that Virginia ought to support casinos, so we stopped losing that opportunity.”

Virginia currently has two casinos, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol and the Rivers Casino Portsmouth, which opened Jan. 23,2023. A third casino, Caesars Virginia, is slated to open next year in Danville. However, the Virginia Lottery Board already approved a temporary facility in Danville, which has been open to the public since May 15.

During August, the three casinos generated $55.1 million in gaming revenue, according to the Virginia Lottery. Of that revenue, Virginia assessed the casinos $9.9 million in taxes, which were paid to the Gaming Proceeds Fund. A percentage of the fund will be distributed to the Virginia Indigenous People’s Trust Fund, the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, the Family and Children’s Trust Fund, and the School Construction Fund.

Patch reached out numerous times by email and phone requesting an interview with either Clemente or Schar about Comstock’s casino plans. As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, no response has been received.

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