An agreement between the county of San Diego and Jamul Indian Village over the impacts of the tribe’s new casino was approved Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors.
The agreement addresses how to handle the traffic, public safety and environmental effects in surrounding areas from the construction and operation of the Hollywood Casino that’s scheduled to open later this year.
“They scored,” tribal Chairwoman Erica Pinto said after the board’s vote, referring to the residents of Jamul who claimed that 98 percent of the surrounding community is opposed to the casino.
“It’s important because we are good neighbors,” Pinto said of the agreement. “Our mantra is public safety. The public is going to get so much from this and so are we.”
The agreement passed on a 3-1 vote, with Vice Chairwoman Dianne Jacob opposed and Supervisor Greg Cox absent.
“I find myself in a difficult situation, to approve an agreement on a casino that I do not agree with,” Jacob said before the vote. “My opposition to this casino is well documented for 20 years. Nice building, wrong location.”
A crowd of about 200 people filled the chamber and two overflow rooms for the three-hour hearing that included two formal presentations and public testimony. Opponents outnumbered proponents by about 3-to-1 when it came to public testimony from almost two dozen speakers, mostly residents of Jamul.
“It’s the single biggest eyesore in the community,” Jamul resident Connie Via said. “This is about greed and corruption. No casino in Jamul. Not now. Not ever.”
The Jamul-Dulzura Community Planning Group was unanimous in its opposition to the agreement and gave a 15-minute presentation listing the reasons.
The Jamul Indian Village hired casino manager Penn National Gaming to develop the $400 million complex.
The casino is expected to include a three-story gaming and entertainment facility of 200,000 square feet, featuring more than 1,700 slot machines, 50 live table games, restaurants, a Tony Gwynn sports bar and an enclosed below ground parking structure for 1,800 cars.
“I realize the folks don’t want a casino,” Supervisor Bill Horn said. “The fact is, there is going to be a casino. We don’t have jurisdiction over a sovereign nation. They don’t have to be here.”
County staff reminded the board that the tribe was not bound to enter into the agreement and could go forth with the casino plan.
The tribal government had been negotiating with the county for more than two years to reach the agreement “because we are good neighbors,” Pinto said. “That speaks volumes about the people we are.”
The casino is located about 20 miles east of downtown San Diego on state Route 94 in the rural East County.
–City News Service