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Hawaii Legislators Reject Casino Proposal

Plans for a casino in Hawaii are not moving forward after a recent proposal was rejected by lawmakers. On Friday, members of the House Economic Development Committee voted to reject a proposal to bring a casino to Kapolei. The plans was submitted by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) and would have created a gambling venue to support the state agency in charge of placing Native Hawaiians on homestead property.

House Bill 359 was deferred indefinitely as lawmakers rejected the measure last week. Chairman of the Committee, Representative Sean Quinlan, was in charge of announcing the ruling. The bill will now be shelved until the 2022 session.

There is a companion measure in the Senate that still has potential to pas into law. However, there is reportedly opposition in the Senate as well which could harm the bill’s chance of survival. With the House side, the DHHL felt like the proposal would be a new way to bring revenues to the agency.

Without a new stream of funding, the department says it could take 180 years to build the homes and necessary infrastructure to stop Hawaiians from waiting to access their home lands. Unfortunately, it seems the effort does not have any support. Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki are not in favor.

Quinlan decided to defer the legislation from the House Committee but at the same time, stated his displeasure at the Legislature for not providing enough funds for DHHL. The lack of funding has been a problem for many years and it comes after a state court told lawmakers that the department must be funded appropriately.

The Senate bill will be heard this week, so there still is hope, however, the outcome is not expected to be positive.

Efforts have been made for quite some time to see Hawaii provide casino gambling to residents and visitors. Hawaii is one of only two states in the US that has strong anti-gambling legislation in place. Currently, the state only allows social poker games to take place and no one can make a profit.

The state has zero casinos, charity gambling, lottery, and sports betting. The lack of options is severe and many people living in the state would like to have the option to wager on something. Lawmakers see gambling as a way to bring in a new source or revenue. However, other lawmakers see gambling as an issue, one that could potentially harm families.

The first real effort for gambling legislation changes came back in 2010. Bills were introduced at the time to legalize online poker. Of course, the measures did not get anywhere. Then, in 2012, an effort was made to look at online poker gaming via a committee study. However, the opposition was strong and this again, came back with no change.

This year may be the same outcome. If legislation cannot get enough backing to support moving through committees, then you will have the same outcome where legislation does not move forward and Hawaii continues to one of only a small number of US states without gambling.