The following is a synopsis for all our new residents and neighbors who are not aware of what has transpired over the last twenty years with this community’s involvement is stopping a casino in Jamul.
Who are the Jamul Indian Village? The tribe is called a reorganized tribe of Kumeyaay Indians that was accepted in 1982 as a Village by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The membership at that time was approximately 23 individuals. They had applied for status to gain the benefits for their elders for health care and other benefits through the Bureau. The land was donated by the Daley family, Rancho Jamul, in 1978 to specific individuals who had lived on the four acre parcel next to the cemetery for many years. The cemetery and the easement to the cemetery are owned by the Catholic Diocese of San Diego. There is no evidence that the land was ever given reservation status by Congress. No current tribal members live at the Village location or in Jamul.
Timeline for Jamul’s Fight: In 1988, Congress passed the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) allowing gaming on Indian Reservations.
In 1992, the Jamul Indian Village announced the building of a casino. The community reacted with a unified voice that a casino was unacceptable in Jamul. Major concerns were the traffic on Highway 94, safety issues, neighborhood impacts, light pollution, police protection, land values, etc.
Our neighbors from Dehesa (Sycuan) and Wildcat Canyon (Barona) attended our meetings telling us of the horrific impacts their communities have suffered. They urged us to fight this detrimental project. They shared their stories of the many accidents and lives lost on the rural roads, loss in property values and the destruction of their rural lifestyles.
The opposition continued for several years. Harrah’s withdraw their interest, stating there were too many problems, not enough land, bad access with a narrow road and too much opposition. In 1996, Station Casinos emerged, proposing a ten story casino. The community regrouped and took action to fight this new threat. Station Casinos bought the land the fire district leased in a land swap with the Otay Water District. Later Stations turned the four acre parcel over to the tribe (old Rural Fire Station). It is still on the County tax rolls as a fee simple property, not Federal land. Station Casinos backed out of their proposed project but one of their principals hooked up with Lakes Entertainment to unveil yet another casino project in late 1999.
Lakes Gaming proposed a thirty story casino. The highest high rise in downtown San Diego is thirty three stories in height. Lakes purchased the adjacent 86 acres and ten acres across the street on Melody to develop a bigger footprint for their casino plans. They filed to take all the newly acquired land into trust with the Federal government. The application still sits at the Bureau of Indian Affairs today. The residents of Jamul were appalled.
The community united once again and a new group was formed call Jamulians Against the Casino, JAC. This group has given a voice to the community, hosting community meetings, with over 400 residents attending each time. Many meetings were held to inform the community about the proposal and the impacts. JAC sponsored a written ballot, sent to all registered voters in Jamul to determine the number opposed and those in favor of having a casino. The ballots were counted by an independent accounting firm. The results were significant. 97.5% opposed a casino in Jamul.
The tribe and Lakes Gaming developed an environmental review that was so flawed it even had cut and paste pages that referenced impacts not even pertaining to Jamul. The report failed to address some of the most severe impacts, ignoring air pollution, light pollution, and emergency services, Highway 94 access, etc.
Starting during the first 10 year period, 1992 to 2002, the tribe had numerous issues internally. Many of the elders did not support a casino, questioning the impacts to their heritage. A growing rift lead to the bashishment and removal of many of the original members who are blood Jamul Indians. Multiple and questionable members were added to the casino faction swelling the trial membership to over 52 member at one time. The questionable , unethical ouster of 50% or better, blood Jamul Kumeyaay Indians, shined the light on the internal fractures. Lakes Gaming was paying each of the tribal members a monthly stipend reported to be between $3000 to $5000 a month. Those that opposed the leadership or did not support the casino were removed from the tribe.
A local Jamul resident and attorney Patrick Webb, heard the plight of the disenfranchised, ousted members who were being harassed and threatened by the other tribal members. He agreed to represent them pro bono to give them a voice. Mr. Webb still is fighting for their rights.
Walter Rosales, a Vietnam Marine Veteran, and Karen Toggery, whose mother, son and other family members are buried at the catholic cemetary are two members who were living on the reservation land. On Saturday, March 10, 2007, early in the morning, they were brutally and forcefully removed from their homes by gun point. The tribe used hired police to physically remove them from homes they had lived in since childhood. After being forced from their homes, well over 60 Jamul neighbors came rallying to protect them, their homes and belongings. When a group of neighbors and friends tried to go into Walter’s home to get his belongings, tribal members Robert Mesa and Bill Mesa ordered the hired police to begin pepper spraying the group in their faces. Several Jamul residents were seriously injured requiring medical attention. The standoff went until midafternoon, ending with a written agreement to do nothing to their homes until a court could decide. This was signed by the tribal chairman and the San Diego County Sheriff.
Only two days later, on Monday, March 12, 2007, the tribe bulldozed Walter and Karen’s homes, their possessions, trees and gardens. They hauled off the debris and scrapped the land to bare ground. Shocked, the community held a fund raiser to help Walter and Karen and provided housing. The community vowed to continue to stop a casino.
2008 saw the beginning of the financial and economic crash. Lakes Gaming, now Lakes Entertainment, saw a dramatic drop in their stock. They lost several of their lucrative management agreements and their big investment in Northern California, the Red Hawk Casino was not faring well and is still not doing well. Click for the Sacramento Bee article.
2009, the community learned that the Jamul Village and Caltrans had entered into a secret agreement for the encroachment permit that would allow access to Highway 94. The community and JAC had hired the well know, environmental attorney, Steve Volker to help advise the community. When the agreement came to light, Mr. Volker filed suit to force Caltrans to follow the same laws, rules, regulations and public disclosure that all other entities must follow. The lawsuit was returned to the trial court from the appeals court. Caltrans must follow CEQA.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported that the Jamul Indian Village received $3.8 million dollars in stimulus monies for retail purposes in 2009/2010. (Click for UT article on February 12, 2010)
In October 2011, Lakes Entertainment stated in their 3rd quarter report stated they have redone their gaming agreement with the Jamul Indian Village.
Rumors had surfaced the past year that the tribe was getting ready to attempt another casino. They had hired and fired several different project participants including consultants, surveyors and planners in the last year. Now these rumors have been confirmed.
2012 to Present: In early 2012, Lakes Entertainment terminated their agreement with the JIV with the caveat that who ever becomes the “next” financial suckers to take on this project, Lakes is owed $60 million. Yes, $60 million dollars!
Penn National Gaming has become the next “financial backer” for the JIV for what is now, the fourth “casino” plan for this small parcel of land property. (And take on the $60M from Lakes)
Early in 2013, the JIV approved their own project with almost none of the issues that have been present since the start being addressed. Traffic, Crime, Emergency Services, Water Quality, Air Quality, Environmental Damage, etc. The damage goes on and on and on. It hasn’t changed.
And neither has the stance of JAC and the community. We will not stop fighting.
Penn National applied for a gaming contract with the JIV. In order to have this approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) (both which fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior (DOI)), a review process must be completed. Many community members and county agencies spoke out against the management contract (which as of February 2014 has NOT been approved).
In applying for the gaming contract, the government opened themselves up to our federal lawsuit against the DOI/BIA/NIGC. The land does not qualify for gaming, as the JIV was not a recognized tribe in 1934. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling from 2009 states this and now we can help them enforce it.