Hawaii sports betting is on the back burner.
Several gambling bills were discussed this week during a House Economic Development Committee meeting, with plentiful vocal opposition.
While HB 736 was deferred, committee chair Rep. Sean Quinlan is supportive of the bill that proposes a sports betting pilot program in Hawaii.
“I feel more comfortable with [over the other gambling bills,]” Quinlan said. “It’s something we really need to look at. With the ubiquity of cell phones, I would like to see the state get its fair share.”
Hawaii sports betting pilot program
If approved, the bill would require the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to develop a pilot program for the state to oversee sports betting.
The program would allow the state to issue licenses to companies to operate mobile betting on the islands. The program would cease to exist in 2025.
DraftKings government affairs manager Rebecca London spoke in favor of the bill. London cited American Gaming Association estimates there are 276,000 Hawaiians illegally betting up to $669 million annually.
Objections to HI sports betting
Deputy Prosecutor Tricia Nakamatsu spoke against the bill on behalf of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
Nakamatsu said various studies found legalized gambling comes with increased rates of crime, including domestic violence. Hawaii does already have social gambling, which legalizes betting in settings like office pools.
“Once you open this Pandora’s box to legalized commercial gambling … the evidence is very clear [crime] will be way worse,” Nakamatsu said.
Lack of enforcement?
Between London’s claims of illegal betting activity on the islands and Nakamatsu’s issues with evaluated crimes correlated to gambling, representatives had questions.
Quinlan and Rep. Richard Onishi asked Nakamatsu what kind of enforcement of illegal gambling exists in Hawaii.
Nakamatsu did not have an answer and said she would look further into the issue. She also feels the AGA estimates are too high.
Other Hawaii gambling bills deferred
The committee also deferred two other bills related to gambling on Wednesday:
HB 383 — to create a state poker commission.
HB 772 — to grant a 10-year license for a standalone members-only casino in Waikiki.
The same committee indefinitely deferred HB 359 last week. That bill proposes a resort-casino to benefit the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
SB 595 proposes a sports betting task force and is currently in several Senate committees.