Controversial Hollywood Casino opens in Jamul

JAMUL, Calif. -- A casino and entertainment complex strongly opposed by neighbors in the East County is scheduled to open to the public Monday.

The $400 million Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, around 20 miles east of downtown San Diego along state Route 94, will feature 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.

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.

One patron waited an hour and a half in traffic just to be there during the grand opening.

“It’s exciting, I love it. I love the colors, I like the music, the noise, and I’m going to go straight to the food court. I’m excited about the food options,” said Hollywood Casino Patron, Maria Marquez. "You can see, Sports Pub Gwynn’s? I’m going to hit it right now.”

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 said in a statement to local news media. "The state is permitting it to go forward at the expense of public safety. I advise motorists to not gamble with their lives and stay away."

“We understand their concerns with traffic, people coming down to this beautiful area because we live here, we’re part of the community as well we know the concerns that they have,” said Jamul Council Member, Michael Hunter.

The tribe said it expects to pay $23 million for road and transportation improvements in the area and has invested $90 million for Fire and Public Safety.

"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," Pinto said. "These efforts are meaningful and important for our tribe and our neighbors."

VP & General Manager Hollywood Casino, Richard St. Jean  says residents need to know that the Casino wants to keep everyone, not only residents and patrons, but staff safe on the roads.

“It starts with the General Manager actually going to TIPS training and every single other person that’s on the front line is going through this training," said GM Richard St. Jean. "We have the ability to book Uber, Lyft, and cabs. We’ll even have our security drive them home if we can’t find an alternative, but we will not let someone get on the road.”

Despite the concerns, an East County resident says Hollywood Casino is a welcome addition and a win-win for everyone.

I’m hoping what we hear in the future, we hear nothing but good things for both the community as well as the casino,” said East County Resident, Donna Gentz-Wallis.

Expect possible delays on Route 94 due to increased traffic and various construction projects in Jamul.