JAMUL, Calif. - A casino and entertainment complex that drew the ire of neighbors in the East County opened to the public today and, combined with road construction, led to major traffic congestion on state Route 94.
The $400 million Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, around 20 miles east of downtown San Diego, features 1,700 slot machines, 43 table games and seven restaurants. One of the eateries, Tony Gwynn's Sports Pub, features memorabilia from the late Padres icon and an array of televisions for watching athletic contests.
The 200,000-square-foot casino, on the property of the Jamul Indian Village, also includes a nightclub.
On Monday afternoon, the California Highway Patrol issued the following advisory for anyone traveling in the immediate area:
"SR-94 is currently experiencing heavy traffic conditions in the area of The Hollywood Casino, located at 14145 Campo Rd., Jamul CA 91935. The traffic advisory extends between SR-125 and Honey Springs Rd. as well as the SR-54 and SR-94 junction. Due to the very heavy traffic conditions, CHP has dispatched several Officers to the area in an attempt to alleviate the traffic, which is backed up for several miles in all directions. At this time we are advising the motoring public of the heavy traffic conditions and the extended travel times through the area. We also encourage anyone who does not have to travel the area to avoid Campo Rd. for the next 6-8 hours. Campo Rd. will remain open with CHP and Caltrans units on scene to assist with traffic control."
A 25-year gaming compact between the state and the tribe was signed in August by Gov. Jerry Brown, setting the operating terms for the three-story facility, which will employ more than 1,000 people.
The casino was built and will be operated by Penn National Gaming, which runs 27 other casinos across the U.S.
A stretch of the highway near the casino is lined with concrete barriers. At midday, Steele Canyon High School tweeted: "Attn: SCHS Community, traffic is currently backed up from the casino to the Campo/Jamacha intersection. Please plan accordingly & drive safe."
Area residents, led by county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, bitterly fought the development because they were concerned about traffic impacts on the semi-rural roadway in the area. She has criticized Caltrans for allowing the project to proceed.
"Caltrans is failing the public by allowing the casino to open without all the badly needed road improvements in place, which was a part of the agreement Caltrans reached with Jamul Indian Village in 2009," Jacob told City News Service.
"The state is permitting it to go forward at the expense of public safety," she said. "I advise motorists to not gamble with their lives and stay away."
The tribe said it expects to pay $23 million for road and transportation improvements in the area.
"The tribe maintains a longstanding commitment to the community," said Erica Pinto, chairwoman of Jamul Indian Village. "We are proud to fund roadway improvements and other essential services to make our community safer. These efforts are meaningful and important for our tribe and our neighbors."