Over a year on from its grand opening, the Hollywood Casino Jamul, near San Diego, remains as controversial as ever with the local community.
Like those small pockets of Japanese soldiers holding out in the jungles of the Pacific Basin, refusing to believe their generals had surrendered, the war is still raging for the largely middle-class population of Jamul, despite the fact that the casino they fought bitterly against for almost two decades has been fully operational for some time.
In a piece for the San Diego Reader on Wednesday, Siobhan Braun found locals defiant as ever, with anti-casino placards displayed prominently throughout the town, declaring: “No casino in Jamul! Save our community!” and: “97.5% say no casino!”
The Jamul Action Committee has filed over 40 lawsuits opposing the casino over the past 20 years, all to no avail. Braun soon discovered that the committee’s members the ones responsible for all the signs and, quite possibly, several bad reviews on Yelp.
Recognition at Last
Around the beginning of the 20th century, an impoverished community of Kumeyaay Indians settled in Jamul. In 1978, the family that owned the 4.5 acres of land on which they lived bequeathed it to the federal government to be held in trust for the Indians, while a further 1.8 acres were donated by the Catholic Church. This became the Jamul Indian Village.
Land ownership meant the community was able to apply for federal recognition and, in 1981, it became a designated tribe. This brought federal funding, which in turn brought electricity and running water. And 30 years later, a casino!
In 1999, the recently-designated tribe announced their plan to build a casino to the general dismay of the residents of Jamul, who said felt the proposal would tarnish the natural beauty of the area.
Resentment was compounded by the fact that, to make way for the casino, the tribe had to completely move out of the village, and today hardly any tribal members live in Jamul at all.
In 2007, the tribe forcefully evicted three non-tribal residents of the village who opposed the casino. Other protesters were met with pepper spray and batons wielded by a private security firm that had been deputized as “Jamul Tribal Police.”
But, in October 2016, the $400 million, 200,000-square-foot, Penn National-operated Hollywood Casino Jamul opened, complete with seven restaurants, a nightclub and 1,700 slot machines.
“The Hollywood Casino Jamul has been dropped in a sleepy community whose residents are not tribe members and therefore don’t see the benefit to its existence the way those surrounding other tribal casinos do. And that is where most of the drama stems from,” she says.
Ultimately, concludes Braun, the tribe simply didn’t have enough space to create their own community around their casino.