Hawaii online sports betting edges closer to reality as House Committee advances legislation

The prospect of online sports betting in Hawaii has moved a step closer to realization with a crucial development. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives Committee on Economic Development gave its approval to House Bill 2765.

The bill, designed to oversee online sports betting in Hawaii, received the green light alongside essential amendments. Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Holt, the same lawmaker behind HB 2762 advocating for casino gambling in the state, the bill sets the stage for a hotel and casino establishment on Oahu, media reports say.

Both bills secured approval through a split 5-2 vote, leading them to be referred to the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce or Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs. The legislative session, initiated on Jan. 17, is expected to adjourn in early May.

In recent committee testimony, a lobbyist highlighted the existence of illicit betting platforms in Hawaii, emphasizing that a “regulated and competitive” online sports betting framework would swiftly replace them.

The committee introduced amendments to bolster the online sports betting bill. Notably, an amendment revised the minimum betting age to 18, allowing individuals aged 18 or older to participate in wagering on licensed sportsbooks.

Another modification involved redirecting tax revenue generated from sports betting to a dedicated fund within Hawaii’s Department of Law Enforcement. The funds are intended to combat illegal gambling activities, both in-person and online, and establish a gambling mitigation program—an initiative currently absent in Hawaii.

While the legislation permits the licensing of multiple operators, the specific cost of obtaining a license remains undisclosed. The proposed tax rate for wagering activities is undetermined at this stage, with an estimated annual sports betting tax revenue of approximately $9 million.

Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Holt, emphasized that the proposed bills are poised to stimulate Hawaii’s tourism industry and attract visitors.

However, both bills face opposition from those against casino gambling and online sports betting. The fate of these bills depends on garnering sufficient support in both the House and Senate for potential enactment into law.

During Wednesday’s committee meeting, Rep. Elijah Pierick voiced his opposition, asserting that gambling is inherently wrong, and the potential revenue does not justify the legalization of sports betting.