Construction has started on a proposed $360 million casino in Jamul in San Diego's East County. NBC 7's Elena Gomez reports.
Organizers of a proposed $360 million casino in Jamul are going forward with the project amid lawsuits threats and harsh criticism from county officials and Jamul citizens who claim the project will disrupt the area and its traffic.
At issue is the construction of the The Hollywood Casino Jamul, located on the Jamul Indian Village, about 20 miles east of downtown San Diego.
Construction began this week on the facility which developers said will have 1,700 slot machines, 50 live table games, and multiple restaurants and bars.
Nearly a decade of work has gone into the project it’s expected to create 2,500 construction and permanent jobs in the area, according to Raymond Hunter, chairman of the Jamul Indian Village of California.
Hunter said project coordinators worked to make sure the facility had green aspects to it, including water and waste reclamation systems and also address fire protection measures.
The project includes what Hunter called a Transportation Management Plan (TMP) to mitigate traffic issues that may stem from construction. According to Hunter, the plan was approved by the California Department of Transportation and an encroachment permit was issued.
Even with promises to ensure the project doesn't disrupt the Jamul area and its traffic, the controversial casino has drawn sharp words from San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob as well as Jamul residents who have come out against the project.
“The tribe must take us for fools if it thinks a Hollywood-style, Costco-sized casino would blend seamlessly into rural Jamul," Jacob said in a statement released Friday.” The giant gaming complex might generate profits for the tribe and its developer, but at the expense of the community’s quality of life.”
Hunter addressed critics of the project in a statement released Friday afternoon.
"Our TMP procedures will divert construction traffic to the southeast and away from the businesses and neighborhoods in downtown Jamul," Hunter said. "We were shocked and dismayed to learn of threatened lawsuits by the County and a citizen’s group to overturn this carefully crafted and sensible traffic safety plan."
Hunter went on to add that if citizens and the county successfully repealed the project's encroachment permit, the JIV “will have no other option but to run our hauling operations straight through downtown Jamul.”
As controversy continues to build around the casino, which is slated to open in late 2015, Hunter said, at this point, none of the recent efforts to delay the project will stop construction entirely.
"This threatened lawsuit in no way jeopardizes our ability to successfully develop and open the Jamul Indian Village casino. JIV has spent well over a decade listening to the voices of the community, addressing concerns, and ultimately developing a project that blends seamlessly into the region,” Hunter said.