Construction begins on Jamul Casino

Hollywood Casino expected to open in 2015

JAMUL, Calif. - Construction is underway on a controversial casino project on the Jamul Indian Reservation in San Diego's East County, the builders announced Friday, but the county government has threatened a lawsuit to halt the project.

The $360 million Hollywood Casino at the Jamul Indian Village, about 20 miles east of downtown San Diego along state Route 94, is scheduled to be open late next year if it's not delayed.

The three-story gaming and entertainment facility will be around 200,000 square feet, with more than 1,700 slot machines, 50 live table games including poker, multiple restaurants, bars and lounges and an enclosed below-grade parking structure with over 1,900 spaces.

"We are very excited that our long-time dream will finally become a reality," Jamul Indian Village of California Chairman Raymond Hunter said. "We have worked tirelessly for well over a decade, listening to the voices of the community, addressing concerns and ultimately developing a project that blends seamlessly into the region, while creating approximately 2,500 much-needed construction and permanent jobs in our region."

Nearby residents voiced concerns about increased traffic due to the casino. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was among the vocal opponents.

She said the Board of Supervisors unanimously authorized a lawsuit against Caltrans for issuing a permit that allowed construction to start.

"The tribe must take us for fools if it thinks a Hollywood-style, Costco-sized casino would blend seamlessly into rural Jamul," Jacob said. "The giant gaming complex might generate profits for the tribe and its developer, but at the expense of the community's quality of life."

She said it was "ridiculous" to embark on the project without first "ironing out the best way to access it."

Yusuf Smith told 10News he moved to Jamul "to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city."

Smith, a father of two, said he wanted a big yard to play with his kids "and escape the traffic and problems that come with city life."

However, Smith said, "Now with news of this casino, this road right here is already dangerous enough."

Smith is referring to SR-94 in the area -- a road considered windy with numerous blind curves.

Hunter said the village has worked with Caltrans to develop a traffic management plan for the highway, and hauling of debris from the site will be done toward the southeast, away from businesses and residences.

The casino is expected to attract thousands more vehicles a day to on the two-lane highway, but it has yet to complete a crucial environmental impact report that will lay out a plan for how it will handle the excess traffic.

10News asked casino executive Eric Schippers, "Doesn't an environmental impact review need to be done before you can start a project?"

He responded, "Um, I believe all of the necessary boxes have been checked to get us to this point."

As for what happens now, Smith said, "Lack of a better word, it's a gamble we're going to have to take now living out here. Do we have to move? I hope not."

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