Rep. John Mizuno is ready to see legal sports betting in Hawaii but understands it might be a multi-year process.
“Realistically, no,” Mizuno said when asked if the bill has a chance to pass this year. “How about a lawmaker being honest and a straight shooter?”
Hawaii sports betting, casino bills need more time
Along with the bill concerning sports betting in Hawaii, Mizuno reintroduced legislation for a single casino from last year as HB 1820. That bill includes protection for locals, as access to the casino requires a hotel stay and an entrance fee.
But Mizuno knew even before the bills were introduced that they would have slim chances of passing during an election year.
“Whenever you have an election year, the truth of the matter is, a lot of the controversial bills, the hot-button bills, they fall to the wayside. We just don’t hear them because we’re afraid if we go up on gambling, we’re going to lose our seat.”
Hawaii’s legislature is also extremely conservative, Mizuno said, which usually does not mix well with gaming expansion. Mizuno noted “the great equalizer is time,” though, adding same-sex marriage was seen as controversial but eventually passed after a few years.
“If gaming is that sinister, that bad, why is it legal in 48 other states?” Mizuno said. “So I think it’s just a matter of time before Hawaii and Utah pass gaming legislation for their states.”
Bill details very much in flux
HB 1815 is up for negotiation if it even gets a committee hearing, Mizuno said. His inspiration for the bill was New York’s legislation that authorized mobile NY sportsbooks last year.
That is clear in the details: Mizuno wants to tax sports betting revenue at a record 55% and wants winners determined by a competitive bid. The bill is written inconsistently and provides language for both a single winner and multiple winners, which Mizuno said he would have to clear up for the attorney general’s office if the bill gets a hearing.
“My guess is it might be open to multiple operators but we’ll see, we’ll see how it continues in the legislative process,” he said. “… You’d want to have a number of operators because you want to get the best prices, the best odds, the best chances.”