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Jamul Indian Village Breaks Ground On Casino Amid Opposition, Legal Challenges

Evening Edition

Aired 2/6/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST:

Michael Casinelli, a member of the Jamul/Dulzura Community Planning Group

Transcript

Construction on the Hollywood Casino in the Jamul Indian Village, near state Route 94 has begun. This is no surprise. This casino has been in the planning for more than two decades.

But local residents and county officials are still fighting it. Michael Casinelli, a member of the Jamul/Dulzura Community Planning Group said the community opposes the casino for countless reasons.

He said they are concerned about the environmental impacts of the casino on everything from transportation and traffic to road access and the protection of native species and groundwater resources.

"The situation is, these multiple issues of environmental quality have not been evaluated or addressed," Casinelli said.

But it's more than just that. A local group called Jamulians Against the Casino are suing, claiming the six acres in question don't qualify as Indian gaming land.

The group cited a 2009 Supreme Court ruling (Carcieri v Salazar) which found that, "The Bureau for Indian Affairs lacks the authority to acquire land in trust for tribes that were not under federally jurisdiction in 1934."

Jamulians Against the Casino argue the land the casino is being built on is not Indian land because Jamul Indian Village was not a federally recognized tribe in 1934.

In an emailed statement Jamul Indian Village chairman Raymond Hunter disagreed.

"Jamul Indian Village of California is a federally recognized Sovereign Nation. As outlined by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, JIV has the immunities and privileges available to other federally acknowledged Indian tribes by virtue of our government-to-government relationship with the United States of America," Hunter said.

But that's not the only legal challenge the casino faces. San Diego County and Jamulians Against the Casino are separately suing Caltrans for cooperating with the tribe with traffic easements and planned improvements to Highway 94.

Hunter said that lawsuit will not stop the casino from being built.

"The lawsuits by the County and a citizen's group can accomplish nothing more than overturning a sensible plan for traffic safety. If they are successful, we will have no other option but to use existing access roads for our hauling operations that require no encroachment of public right of ways, but unfortunately will result in our trucks traveling straight through downtown Jamul," Hunter said.

The 200,000-square-foot Hollywood Casino is being built on a 6-acre parcel of land along state Route 94 at Melody Road. The three-story casino will have 1,700 slot machines 50 large table games and a parking lot with 1,900 spaces. Jamul Indian Village said the casino is projected to open in late 2015.

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