East County residents: Expect more casino gridlock

Posted at 9:03 AM, Oct 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-11 16:45:36-04

JAMUL, Calif. - Concerns about persistent and widespread traffic tie-ups around a newly opened East County casino appeared to be unfounded Tuesday on its second day of operations.

On Monday, throngs of opening-day visitors to Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, combined with roadway construction in the area, created miles of gridlock along state Route 94 between SR-125 and Honey Springs Road. Caltrans advised motorists that delays would be possible throughout the remainder of the week.

Those problems, however, largely failed to materialize on Tuesday, according to the California Highway Patrol. As of midday, traffic was heavy only in the immediate vicinity of the gaming center, the state agency reported.

"This is pretty much nothing, compared to yesterday," CHP public affairs Officer Tommy Doerr said.

In recent years, as plans for the resort casino made their way through approval processes, residents of surrounding rural communities, led by county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, fought hard against them.

Jacob argued that Caltrans was "failing the public by allowing the casino to open without all the badly needed road improvements in place."

"The state is permitting it to go forward at the expense of public safety," she told City News Service last week. "I advise motorists to not gamble with their lives and stay away."

Tribal officials said they expected 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."

The casino features 1,700 slot machines, 43 table games and seven restaurants including Tony Gwynn's Sports Pub, which features memorabilia from the late Padres icon and an array of televisions for watching athletic contests.

The 200,000-square-foot facility, on the property of the Jamul Indian Village, also includes a nightclub.

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 roughly 20 miles east of downtown San Diego was built and will be operated by Penn National Gaming, which runs 27 other casinos across the United States.