Hawaii Sports Betting Legislation Up For Debate Again After Failed Tries

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Hawaii sports betting

Hawaii lawmakers are taking another swing at legalizing sports betting this year.

The House Economic Development Committee heard two bills last week that would legalize the first forms of gambling in Hawaii. The committee will hold another hearing Wednesday on a gambling resort bill, House Bill 2762, and House Bill 2765, a Hawaii sports betting bill.

Legislators file gambling legalization bills almost every year, as Hawaii has no forms of legal gambling. It is also one of five states without a lottery.

Hawaii sports betting bill details

Rep. Daniel Holt introduced HB 2765, which would legalize online sports betting. Holt’s bill would allow sportsbooks operating in at least three other states to operate in Hawaii. He did not set a tax rate in his proposal.

Holt’s bill puts HI sports betting under the Department of Business and Economic Development. The department testified that it would not be a proper regulatory agency.

Following multiple testimonies questioning how sports betting might affect residents struggling financially or those with gambling addiction, Holt reiterated he did not introduce the bill as a vehicle to prey on vulnerable populations.

“Our tourism revenues are flat,” he said. “It’s to provide tourists another option to come and spend their money here so the state can receive tax revenues.”

Hawaii casino resort possibility

HB 2762 would grant one 40-year license for a hotel and casino on the island of Oahu. The land proposed is under the control of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The bill would create the Hawaii Gaming Control Commission to oversee the license.

Senate President Ronald Kouchi also introduced a sports betting bill, Senate Bill 3376, this session, which includes online poker. Kouchi’s legislation creates just one license and earmarks tax revenue for wildfire relief.

Gaming support in Hawaii

Sports betting bills have fallen on deaf ears in the past. Last year’s legislation faltered in part because even Holt dropped his support of the bill

This year, the Sports Betting Alliance supported the bill during last week’s hearing. The SBA includes BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics and Fanduel.

SBA representative Kathleen Owen said an estimated $277 million in sports bets are made in Hawaii each year. The SBA estimates Hawaii could generate $9 million in taxes from sports betting revenue annually.