Hawaii Sports Betting Bill Makes A Rare Move Forward

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Hawaii sports betting

For the first time in several years, Hawaii sports betting legislation took a step forward this week. 

The House Committee on Economic Development advanced a Hawaii sports betting proposal, House Bill 2765, 5-2, Wednesday. Lawmakers introduce sports betting legislation almost every year, as Hawaii is one of two states with no legal gambling, but the issue often has not even received a committee vote since moving two bills in 2019.

Rep. Daniel Holt‘s bill must now traverse the Consumer Protection & Commerce, Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs and Finance committees before a March 7 deadline to cross over into the Senate.

Many opponents of the bill in Hawaii worry about the effects of legalized gaming on the state’s population. The committee added an amendment to create a fund for state law enforcement to go after illegal operators.

Hawaii sports betting bill

As Committee on Economic Development chair and bill author, Holt believes sports betting will help boost stagnant tourism in the state. The legalization would open the market to US sports betting operators active in at least three other jurisdictions.

There is no license fee or tax rate tied to the bill. Holt assigned industry regulation to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Another bill, House Bill 2762, also passed the committee. That bill creates one 40-year license for a hotel and casino on Oahu.

Industry support in Hawaii

Sports Betting Alliance representative Kathleen Owen spoke in support of the sports betting bill last week and supplied written testimony. The organization represents DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Fanatics.

The SBA estimates Hawaii can generate up to $9 million in tax annually from sports betting revenue.

“A regulated, competitive mobile sports betting market would replace the predatory, illegal platforms already operating in Hawaii and generate new revenue for the state through a policy that has the support of constituents,” Owen said.

Past failed attempts in Hawaii

With no legal gambling, Hawaiian lawmakers have attempted to legalize various types of gaming throughout the years. In past efforts, even supporters have given up and let the legislation be deferred in committee.

Still, plenty of opposition remains in the heavily Democratic-controlled Hawaiian legislature. Many of the arguments against legalization suggest the industry preys on low-income populations.

“Numerous studies have confirmed gambling caused problems such as bankruptcy, theft, embezzlement, suicide, child abuse, and neglect, divorce, incarceration and homelessness,” Rep. Elijah Pierick said during last week’s hearing.