Future of Liquor Sales at Hollywood Casino in Jeopardy

The future of liquor sales at Hollywood Casino is now in the hands of a judge. 

Closing arguments for and against the Jamul gaming facility becoming fully licensed were heard Wednesday. 

NBC 7 Investigates first identified the dramatic increase in the number of traffic accidents, some involving drunk drivers, in proximity to the casino.

Wednesday's administrative hearing was the last call before Judge Adam Berg renders his decision.

NBC 7 Investigates brought to light CHP's alarming new crash data on SR-94 near the casino last June.

Lawyers for the gaming operation, in closing arguments today, say there is no direct evidence linking the increase in traffic accidents to the casino.... opponents say the casino is ignoring the obvious.

State Route 94 is a gateway to Hollywood Casino.

It is a twisting, turning, sometimes two lanes, sometimes four-lane road.

"Having the liquor license in addition to the bad traffic already can only make it worse," Jamul resident Helen Comer said.

Comer joined some 75 other protestants at Wednesday's hearing urging judge Adam Berg to deny the casino a liquor license.

"It would do-in the casino and I think that is a good thing," casino opponent Glenn Paxton said.

Lawyers representing opponents argue the casino draws heavy traffic that, combined with booze, threatens the security of the community.

At the opening of the casino, the California Alcohol Beverage Control granted an interim liquor license, renewable every four months.

According to CHP data, on an 11-mile stretch of SR-94 that includes the casino, there were 99 traffic collisions during its first seven months of operation.

Since the year 2000, the data shows an average of 92 collisions per year.

During the same period, the average number of DUI-related collisions is eight.

In the first seven months of operation, there were 13 DUI-related collisions, according to the data.

"They've breached contractual obligations," protestants' attorney Thomas Benton said.

Opponents argue the casino is slow on promised road improvements that were supposed to ease traffic and make SR-94 safer.

"They understand that they have agreed to do it. They just haven't done it," Bunton said.

The attorney representing the casino Carrie Bottington argues CHP data doesn't point the finger at the gaming facility.

"Since the casino opened there is no evidence of DUI's tied to the casino and no evidence of collisions resulting from someone consuming alcohol at the casino,' Bottington said.

The promised road improvements are not a condition of the ABC department's decision to grant a liquor license.

"The department does not have jurisdiction over the roads and the department does not require an applicant to make road improvements," Bottington said.

The judge's decision ultimately rests on whether the casino liquor license would jeopardize community safety or morality.

It is the same standard ABC used to grant the interim license, which was renewed now a third time.

After hearing both closing arguments, Judge Berg acknowledged he has 100 days to make his decision, then quickly added, it won't take that long.

Both sides can appeal the decision but the current conditional license is good through October.

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