In a year when the government is battling for revenue amid an economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, two gambling-related bills – usually a non-runner in state law – are slated for hearings.
House Bill 359, which would grant a 40-year gaming license to an integrated resort and casino on Department of Hawaiian Homes Lands designated for commercial use in Kapolei, Oahu, will be released by the Economic Development Committee at 9:30 a.m. today belongs to the state capital in Honolulu.
The bill, developed by Tyler Gomes, Vice Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, was introduced by Scott Saiki, an Oahu Democrat.
Gomes is promoting legislation to help the financially troubled division strengthen its mission to bring beneficiaries of 50% or more Hawaiian blood – many of whom have been on a waiting list for decades – into their homes.
The controversial measure, which would also set up the Hawaiian Gaming Commission, would impose a 45% tax on gross gaming revenue and create a state gambling fund.
The bill was also referred to the House Committee on Justice and Hawaiian Affairs, chaired by Democratic Rep. Mark Nakashima of Hamakua, and the House Committee on Finance.
An accompanying bill, Senate Bill 1321, has passed its first reading and is due to be heard by the Hawaiian Affairs Committee on February 11 at 1:00 p.m.
DHHL estimates the resort-casino combination would generate at least $ 30 million in revenue.
Opponents, including Governor David Ige, have warned of the social ills associated with casino gambling, including the rise in alcohol and drug abuse, gambling addiction and prostitution.
Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, recently published a paper titled “Gambling for the Safety of Women: A Feminist Assessment of the Proposed Resort Casino”.
“Native Hawaiians, immigrant and impoverished women, LGBTQ people and children who live in close proximity to the resort casino are likely to suffer the greatest gambling damage such as problem gambling, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and sex trafficking,” so Jabola -Carolus wrote in the nine-page newspaper.
In addition, Senator Mike Gabbard, an Oahu Democrat who represents the district where DHHL plans to develop the casino, and Senator Kurt Fevella, a Republican who represents neighboring Ewa Beach and the Senate minority leader, oppose the proposal. Fevella led a small group of protesters ahead of the commission meeting last month.
Republican Gene Ward of East Honolulu introduced HB 1396 in response to these accompanying measures. Ward’s bill would prohibit the construction and operation of casino games and betting on DHHL packages.
Ward’s bill has been forwarded to the Economic Development, Justice and Hawaiian Affairs and Finance committees but was not due for a hearing until Thursday.
Another approach to casino development is suggested in HB 772, introduced by Rep. John Mizuno, a Democrat representing Kalihi and Kamehameha Heights on Oahu.
Mizuno’s move would grant a 10-year license to a stand-alone casino only to members in Waikiki that is not affiliated with a hotel.
If the bill is passed, guests 21 and older who register for a day and night at an Oahu hotel can receive a casino entry pass for $ 20 per day. It would also put a wagering tax on gross receipts and create a state gambling fund and compulsive gamblers program.
The bill was sent to the committees on Economic Development, Consumer Protection and Commerce, Justice and Hawaiian Affairs, and Finance, but was not due for a hearing until Thursday.
Meanwhile, other bills introduced in state law would legalize lottery gambling.
The establishment of a Hawaii lottery and gaming company is the focus of HB 363 and its accompanying measure SB 561.
Proceeds from a lottery would be used for capital improvements in public schools and the University of Hawaii system and would, among other things, repay educational loans for medical students who practice in Hawaii for 10 years and support the Rural Dormitory Protection Program in Family Practice and Prevention and Reduction of Gambling addiction.
The house version was introduced by Saiki at the request of another party, while the Senate version was introduced by Sens. Gilbert-Keith Agaran of Maui and Clarence of Nishihara of Leeward Oahu, both Democrats.
Both bills received recommendations from the committee, but no hearings were scheduled as of Thursday.
SB 853, introduced by Democratic Senator Dru Kanuha, who represents Kona and Ka’u, would set up a lottery division within the Department of Housekeeping and Finance to participate in the multi-state lottery games Powerball and Mega Millions in Hawaii.
Lottery winnings would be allocated to the general fund and used to create a revolving lottery prize fund.
Kanuha pointed to “historic budget constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” adding that his law would allow the state, through Mega Millions and Powerball, to “fund improvements to our public schools and programs at the University of Hawaii collectively with the protection of water catchment areas and resources to reduce and prevent gambling problems. “
“Improving the resources available to our Hawaiian community has always been a priority of mine and I look forward to continuing the conversation on this move in the legislature,” he said.
Kanuha’s bill was also recommended by the committee, but was not due for a hearing until Thursday.
Email John Burnett at [email protected]