Santa Ysabel Casino closes

SANTA YSABEL, Calif. - The Santa Ysabel Casino went out of business Monday after a nearly seven-year struggle against a recession and its isolated location.

When employees showed up for work at the casino, they were greeted by a sign on the door that read, "Closed for business."

Santa Ysabel Tribal officials also accused San Diego County of being "intransigent" for refusing to renegotiate a financial agreement that paid for off-site improvements and additional sheriff's deputies.

The casino, which filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2012 but was denied, is saddled with debts of more than $50 million, U-T San Diego reported.

"We have always strived to meet all of our obligations and to serve as a responsible corporate partner in our community, as well as a valuable public resource to our members and the surrounding area," Tribal Chairman Virgil Perez said in a statement.

The casino opened in April 2007 near the junction of state Routes 76 and 79 -- close to Lake Henshaw -- with 349 slot machines about the time the October wildfires that year and just before the national recession. The enterprise was also hurt by its isolated location while larger, easier-to-reach casinos flourished.

The closure left around 115 employees without jobs. The casino also was a funding source for the reservation's fire department.

Perez said he remained committed to exploring other business ventures, including gaming on a limited scale, to provide employment opportunities to the casino's workers.

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