The proposition of gambling in Hawaii has been about as likely as, say, a lake-effect blizzard dropping three feet of snow on Waikiki Beach.
As gambling watchers know, Hawaii and Utah are the only two states without any form of legalized gambling, including the lottery.
Yet, a gambling proponent in the Hawaii legislature is going to try again with gaming-related legislation in the 2023 legislative session that would allow for online sports gambling.
Hawaii state Rep. John Mizuno (D), who has introduced gambling-related legislation in the past, introduced a 2023 version of a gambling bill (HB 344) on Jan. 19 that appears to specifically legalize online sports wagering. You can read the bill here.
The bill is without certain key details, such as a tax rate for sports wagering operators or an actual dollar amount for initial or renewal license fees.
Fantasy Sports Not Included
The proposed bill is clear, though, on what constitutes sports wagering, which “includes but is not limited to single-game bets, teaser bets, parlays, over-under, money-line, pools, exchange wagering, in-game wagering, in-play bets, proposition bets, and straight bets.”
However, the bill goes on to say, “’Sports wagering’ does not include fantasy contests in which the winning outcome reflects the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and is determined predominantly by the accumulated statistical results of the performance of athletes or individuals in an actual event.”
There have been some news accounts which have suggested poker and physical sportsbooks could be in the mix somehow but versions of HB 344 available on the state government website don’t appear to specifically mention either of those things.
Past Bills Featured Large Tax Rates
In the past, sports gambling legislation has been suggested in Hawaii with some proposals including a tax rate of a whopping 55%. That kind of tax wallop does not appear to be included in the current proposed bill.
Gambling advocates in the past have noted that Last Vegas is a popular vacation destination for Hawaii residents — so much so Vegas has the nickname of “The Ninth Island.” And, in fact, a number of restaurants and resorts reach out to Hawaiians, most famously the California Hotel & Casino on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas. Even Hawaii’s popular ABC Stores that carry apparel and food and beverage essentials dot the Las Vegas landscape.
With that Hawaiian affinity for Vegas in mind, some proponents of in-state gambling have suggested that even a sliver of at-home gambling, such as sports wagering, might keep some of that wagering money in the Aloha State — albeit that does seem to be a fairly thin argument.
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