Hope for Hawaii sports betting could be gone just as quickly as it came.
After hearing testimony from DraftKings and a sports betting lobbying group Wednesday, the House Committee on Economic Development deferred HB 344, showing little interest in HI sports betting or the tax revenue it might produce.
“I think maybe, at some point, this may be a worthy cause for us but at this point, $7 million a year may not be worth putting our communities at risk,” Committee Chair Rep. Daniel Holt said. “There may be other opportunities in the future, but at this point we’re going to be deferring this measure.”
Key lawmaker bails on HI sports betting bill
While the bill is not officially dead yet, Wednesday’s hearing demonstrated there is even less support for Hawaii sports betting than there was to start the year.
Holt notably had been one of the bill’s few backers. Based on comments to local media and his actions Wednesday, his interest was likely tied more to its potential to regulate black-market cardrooms.
Sports Betting Alliance Counsel Pat Gibbs said it had the potential to raise $6.7 million annually for the state, where an estimated 276,000 people bet offshore every year.
Holt asked how legalizing sports betting would help crackdown on illegal gambling.
“By legalizing this, it gives law enforcement an additional enforcement mechanism because they know who is licensed and who is not,” said DraftKings government affairs manager Rebecca London.
Brief mention of responsible gaming
Aside from Vice Chair Rachele Lamosao, who asked for more data on the offshore market, Rep. Elijah Pierick was the only other lawmaker to ask a question.
“Can you help us understand how sports wagering would not harm the poor?” Pierick asked. “I believe gambling is basically praying on the poor for sources of income.”
London responded by going over the features on DraftKings app where users can self-impose limits and reaffirmed the company’s commitment to responsible gaming.
HI sports betting deja vu
Wednesday was hardly the first time a Hawaii sports betting bill nosedived in committee. In fact, it is the seventh bill in three years lawmakers have dismissed.
By calling for its deferral, Holt could recall it to committee at a later date or simply leave it in committee to die, a much more likely outcome.
According to Gibbs, Anthology Research polling indicates 73% of Hawaiian adults support legalizing sports betting.