Unexpectedly, Hawaii, a state that has never allowed gambling, is considering changing its laws, which may lead to the rise of online poker and sports betting. The campaign has been led by Senator Ronald Kouchi (D), who introduced a measure in the state senate and a house bill that matched it. In addition to legalizing gambling, sports betting and online poker, the proposed law considers the idea of opening a single casino in the state.
The senate bill introduces a unique profit-sharing arrangement with a designated gaming operator. In its inaugural year, the state would claim a substantial 70% of revenue, gradually decreasing by 5% annually. By the 14th year, the state’s share would stabilize at 5%. Drawing inspiration from successful models in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, this structure aims to strike a balance between government revenue and gaming operator profitability.
Crucially, the proposed funds from this endeavor would be directed towards Hawaii’s wildfire fund, a poignant response to the significant costs incurred in battling the devastating August wildfires in Maui. With damages exceeding $5 billion and over 100 lives lost, the state is grappling with the aftermath, making the allocation of gambling-generated funds a strategic move for prevention and relief efforts.
Bringing Offshore Gamblers into the Fold
The senate bill openly acknowledges the prevalent use of offshore gaming sites by many residents for casino play, poker, and sports betting. Advocates of the legislation emphasize the urgency to transition these activities into a legal framework that safeguards Hawaii residents while tapping into the potential revenue source. The bill underscores the necessity “to regulate this existing activity by authorizing and implementing a secure, responsible, and legal system for online sports and poker wagering.”
Even with possible contributions from tourists, building a strong online poker community seems ambitious given Hawaii’s small population of 1.4 million. Notably, the present measure leaves open future concerns regarding shared liquidity among poker operators by not addressing participation in the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
Hawaii is at a crossroads in the legislative discussion, considering shifting from its long-standing anti-gambling stance in favor of regulated internet gaming and economic advantages.
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