Usually when someone asks if gambling will ever be legalized across the States of America, there has always been two holdouts that would prevent it. Utah, being the home of the Mormon Church, has banned any type of gambling inside the state’s borders, even lotteries. Hawaii used to be the other state in that answer, but there are moves to open the islands for gambling and lottery sales that are currently at a roadblock.

Casino, Lottery Sales in Legislation

According to Dan Nakaso of the Honolulu Star-Adviser, the chances of a bill passing through the Hawaii House of Representatives took several blows last week. There were three bills that had been proposed by State Representative Sean Quinlan, who chairs the House Economic Development Committee. The three bills would have each addressed a different area of gaming in the Aloha State.

The first was House Bill 383, which would have created a state-run poker commission that would have jurisdiction over live poker rooms in the state. The second was House Bill 772, which would have allowed for the building of a casino at the Hawaii Convention Center that would only be accessible by players who had stayed in an Oahu hotel. Finally, there was House Bill 736, which would have given the framework for digital sports betting (mobile).

The Senate also had their own bills floating around their chambers. Senate Bill 816 would have created the ability for the state to facilitate a lottery that would have begun in January 2022. The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee, but it was amended by the chairwoman of the committee, Senator Michelle Kidani, to take effect in January 2023 instead. An additional casino proposal in the Senate, Senate Bill 1321, is also on the table, but has yet to pass out of committee.

What Would be the Impact of Legalized Gaming on Hawaii?

If you are looking at just the residents of Hawaii, gaming might not be significantly impactful. With only 1.42 million residents, they are barely above the size of Delaware (a state which has a multitude of gaming operations) and less than Nevada. With this said, a study showed that there are 500,000 trips from Hawaii to Las Vegas every year, a sizeable amount of traffic that cannot be ignored.

The real draw of gaming in Hawaii would be the tourism industry. Over seven million people visit the Hawaiian Islands on a yearly basis simply for what the islands have to offer now. While there might be a decrease in some areas of tourism if casino gaming were allowed (people wouldn’t be taking the sightseeing trips and other accoutrements), having casino gaming and other options available could raise significant revenues.

There is a downside of the situation, however, and it is something that we have been dealing with for the past year – COVID. Already dependent on tourism for much of their revenues, why would Hawaii commit to another arena that is driven by people gathering in an area and potentially get sick?

The moves by the bicameral legislature in Hawaii are significant in that they are examining the issue of gaming heavily. But even those in charge say that there is no possibility of passage of these laws, at least in 2021. The discussion is there, however, so it may be something that nobody has any control over as to when it will happen – the passage of time and the acceptance of gaming in the state.

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