Hawaii lawmakers propose bill to legalize sports betting, poker at privately-owned parlors

Hawaii lawmakers are proposing a bill to make sports betting and poker legal on Oahu. Both of the representatives pushing the gambling bill, Rep. John Mizuno and Rep, Daniel Holt, represent parts of Kalihi, where illegal gambling is a big issue, and they want to provide a legal alternative.

There are currently over 7,200 illegal gaming rooms in operation, which have been linked with drugs and prostitution. Mizuno stated that this will help eliminate those social issues and create a legal and safe avenue for people to gamble.

“These game rooms are unregulated,” Holt commented, as reported by Hawaii News Now. “They often have to do with drugs and prostitution as well. By having a legal avenue to express their willingness to play these poker games we are going to get the tax revenue.”

Lawmakers say people from Hawaii are spending about a billion dollars a year in Las Vegas. If this bill passes, Hawaii could gain millions per year and use it to help create affordable housing in the state, according to proponents.

Holt and Mizuno are proposing a test of small privately-owned and heavily-taxed gambling parlors where patrons would play only poker and place bets on sports.

The representatives say the parlors would be attractive to people who now take their money to Las Vegas and also might reduce the pressure to legalize betting through national online operators.

Mizuno said they expect those companies will seek legal status in Hawaii. “The reason we are concerned about DraftKings, FanDuel is we don’t want a mainland corporation coming in and just taking all the money,” Mizuno said.

“Being practical and knowing that these things are taking place on our streets every day. To make it like we are introducing something new is false. We are taking an industry that is being unregulated and putting it into regulation and benefiting our communities at the same time,” Holt added, as reported by KITV.

Lawmakers say money raised from sports gaming will go towards providing help to those who face gambling addictions, to law enforcement to crack down on illegal gambling, and to Hawaiian Homelands.

Governor Josh Green said he’s willing to consider the lawmakers’ ideas. “We need revenue for our state but the revenues if you are not careful do come from those who are tending to have economic problems or challenges,” Green said. “So I’d like to be careful.”