The word on the street about casino

Indian casino here? Bring it on? No way? What are your
San Benito County – Indian casino here? Bring it on? No way? What are your thoughts?

South Valley residents have decidedly mixed views on a proposal for a casino resort complex on state Highway 25, near the Santa Clara-San Benito county line. A coalition of area investors and four California Valley Miwoks have floated the idea.

As of press time, the yeses had a 57 percent majority in a Hollister Free Lance Web poll that asked the question, “Do you favor locating an Indian casino in the Hollister area?” With 217 votes since Aug. 31 the response is among the highest number of votes for the newspaper’s Web polls.

Loose talk on San Benito Street in Hollister

Young adults around here may welcome a casino as a cure for boredom, as two local 18-year-olds indicated Friday.

“Hollister needs things for younger people to do,” said Summer Eatmon, a clerk at Boutique de Lingerie. “I just moved here from Santa Maria in January, and we had the Chumash Indian Casino. I never went, but … I never noticed anything bad because of the casino.”

“It would be really nice if they could bring in something to attract younger people, like music or something,” said Armando Guevara, a lifelong Hollister resident who works at Dick Bruhn menswear. “There really isn’t anything here, and Gilroy is even too small to have much. Most of my friends go to San Jose when they go out.”

Some Indian casinos offer entertainment for a younger crowd, even though gamblers must be at least 21 in California. The Viejas Casino in Alpine offers a regular “concert in the park,” held outside the casino. Billy Idol is scheduled to play there soon to an all-ages crowd. However, when Pat Benatar, Johnny Mathes and the Pointer Sisters perform at the Chumash Casino concerts in Santa Maria, no one under 18 is allowed.

Janie Nieto, 45 – a manager at Dick Bruhn and a 24-year Hollister resident – said she’d welcome a casino because of the jobs it would bring.

“My son was affected when they closed all these computer businesses down here a couple years ago, and we need more jobs in this area,” Nieto said. “Right now, almost everyone commutes to work.

“I don’t know about (Highway) 25 though; things are bad enough out there as it is,” Nieto added. “They’ll have to keep tabs on drinking and driving really good, but I don’t think it will be like Reno, where you’re constantly drinking.”

William Cabrera doesn’t feel the same way. As the 40-year-old lifelong Hollister resident and robotic engineer ate lunch at Main Street Bistro, he said he would oppose a casino because it would increase crime, gambling addiction, traffic and the degradation of scenic farmland along Highway 25.

“The area has a lot of farm workers that I think could be tempted to go and gamble,” Cabrera said. “They work hard for minimum wage, and they go lose their hard-earned money at a casino. … I know it would bring some jobs and opportunities, but I don’t see it offsetting the negative impacts.”

Ron Duff, 70, of San Jose, doesn’t believe a casino would raise local crime or gambling addiction, but he wouldn’t go to a casino around here anyway.

“All (Indian casinos) have is gambling,” said Duff, who once co-owned a business in Hollister. “I think it’s nicer to go to Reno or Las Vegas, where you can walk around and see the city and the sights.”

… and on the streets of Gilroy

At the Wells Fargo ATM on Tenth Street, the casino question prompted a friendly discussion between Gilroy antiques dealer Lorin Wegand and friend Bob Fullington, who lives in Los Banos but often works in the South Valley, where he manages several delivery routes.

“There’s some goods and some bads,” said Fullington, who hadn’t heard about the proposal, but both men agreed that the “goods” probably outweighed the “bads.”

Both said they would look forward to the jobs, food and entertainment a casino would bring. Wegand enthused that Bill Cosby recently did a comedy routine at a California casino. Fullington mentioned that Jay Leno performed at another.

Both men thought a casino would not prompt a crime wave, as some predict. Wegand admitted it would increase the temptation for gambling addicts but said they have access to card clubs and Internet gambling already.

“There’s gambling all around,” Wegand said. “I think (a casino) would be more positive than anything.”

That view was not shared by Pete Thompson, who was waiting for his lunch at Gaeta’s Taqueria on Tenth Street.

“I think it’s a horrible idea,” said Thompson, who lives in San Jose and works in Gilroy, Hollister and Morgan Hill. “Areas like this don’t need gambling and drinking on their roads, especially on (Highway) 25. … That place is too congested as it is.

“If you want to gamble, go to Vegas,” he added. “With all these casinos popping up everywhere, it’s bad for the community.”

On the other side of the taqueria, Karen Springer of Gilroy had a different view.

“Casinos are fun,” she said, but she wanted to know why the would-be casino owners aren’t trying to build closer to Hollister, which could perhaps use the commerce more than Gilroy.

Gilroy City Councilman Bob Dillon, spotted Thursday at Saint Louise Regional Hospital, said he enjoys gambling in Nevada but is adamantly opposed to a casino here.

“I think drugs and prostitutes are going to follow it,” Dillon said. “I find myself wishing San Benito County had done some development … before they got in their current pinch. This is the result of that.”

Across town on First Street, in front of the Gilroy Donut Hut, 80-year-old Ernie Thorsen shared Dillon’s view.

“I don’t like it,” Thorsen said of the casino idea. “Gambling brings prostitutes … thievery … drugs. .… It’s not a religious thing. It’s a practical viewpoint. You ask any police official, and they’ll tell you.

“Years back, they used to have one-arm bandits at the old veterans’ hall, and they even had them at the Moose lodge,” Thorsen added. People complained about the slot machines, however, and the organizations removed them.

“Now gambling is OK, but it’s not,” Thorsen said. “People here in Gilroy are as gullible as anywhere else. You get them in front of those machines ….”

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