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Lawmakers introduce bills to bring lottery and casinos to Hawaii


Hawaii, one of just two states that does not permit any form of legal gambling, may soon allow its first games of chance.

Legislators in the state’s House of Representatives and Senate have introduced six different bills, all of which have passed first reading and have been assigned to committees.

A seventh bill has been filed to commission a study into the impact of legal gambling in Hawaii.

Each sets out proposals for different forms of legal gambling. Senate Bill 561, introduced by Gilbert Keith-Agaran, House Bill 363 , a companion bill filed by Representative Scott Saiki would create the Hawaii Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

This entity would be permitted to operate games of chance and games of skill including lottery, poker and casino games. Sports betting would remain prohibited, however. Revenue from legal gambling would then be used to fund public schools and the University of Hawaii.

Senate Bill 853, meanwhile, was introduced by Dru Kanuha and would set up a state lottery division. This lottery would only offer the two major US interstate lottery games: Mega Millions and Powerball and also direct proceeds towards education.

Another bill from Saiki, HB359 and its Senate companion SB1321, Senator Ronald Kouchi, would allow for a single integrated resort on the islands. The resort would be granted a 40-year operating license.

The bill would also establish a wagering tax of 45%, as well as a license application fee of $1m, and create a state Gaming Commission. Funds would go towards the Hawaiian Homes Projects, which provide accommodation for native Hawaiians.

Under this proposal, applicants would submit plans for an integrated resort on the state as part of a tender process. Tthe new Gaming Commission would award the operating license to the plan it deems the strongest.

SB772, introduced by Senator John Mazuno, would allow for a single casino, though this would be a members-only venue. It would be granted a 10-year license, and be located the Honolulu district of Waikiki. Under this bill, the casino must not be part of a hotel.

Finally HB457, introduced by Sam Kong, would create a task force in the state Business, Economic Development and Tourism department to study legalised gambling and recommend a path forward to the legislature.

All of the House bills have been referred to the Economic Development Committee, while the Senate Bills where referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.

Hawaii is currently one of only two states – alongside Utah – where no form of gambling is legal.