Legalized gambling is back on the legislature's agenda as one way to attack the state budget deficit.
So many Hawaii residents enjoy gambling in Las Vegas some call it the ?Ninth Island.? But former Gov. Linda Lingle?s opposition to legalized gambling in Hawaii kept it off the table at the legislature. But now she's gone and that's changed, said House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro.
?This might be the right opportunity,? Oshiro said. ?We haven't had a real serious discussion for several years, so I think we will have the discussion.?
Sen. Malama Solomon introduced the first gaming proposal of the year on the first day of session. Senate Bill 3 would have the state Department of Business and Economic Development study the whether Hawaii should join an existing multi-state lottery. She suggests adding a Hawaii flavor to the prize.
?We would attach onto that lottery as part of your prize not just your money prize that New York is offering, but it would also include a week in Hawaii,? Solomon said.
Oshiro said casinos will also be considered. One proposal is for the state to allow a single casino in Waikiki for which the developer would have to pay a large up-front fee to the state. Lobbyists for the idea have said developers would pay up to $100 million for exclusive rights to offer casino gambling in the premier tourist destination. Proposals for offshore gambling are also expected.
Most proposals include restrictions designed to encourage tourist gamblers and discourage low-income residents from participating.
Polls have shown most residents favor limited gaming, but with Hawaii one of only two states with complete gambling bans, the opposition to legalization, from human service agencies, churches and law enforcement, has been fierce.
Maui lawmaker Rep. George Fontaine, a Republican, is a former police captain. He said limits won't keep desperate people from wasting their money.
"When they are faced with the frustration of having to pay that mortgage, feed their family and all of those things they are going to take that chance,? Fontaine said. ?They are going to be playing that dollar everyday, hoping for that one-in-a-million chance they are going to win $100 million.?
Gov. Neil Abercrombie told KITV he is not ruling out gambling as a potential revenue source eventually, but said he doubts the complicated issue can be resolved quickly enough to address the current financial crisis.
?It?s so complicated. It?s so long term. It?s so detailed it doesn?t do us any good in the short run,? Abercrombie said. He also expressed concern that taking up the issue this year could be a costly distraction from more realistic solutions.