Hawaii Online Poker Legislation
Hawaii is one of just two states without any form of legalized gambling. Utah is the other state that does not even have a state lottery. While Utah’s reason for not having legalized gambling is due to its conservative population, Hawaii does not have gambling due to the state’s protection of its tourism industry.
Tourism is the number one industry in Hawaii. Many in the state do not want casinos to be built in Hawaii and take away revenue from its existing hotels and tourist attractions. Several lawmakers in the state see internet gambling differently as it would be aimed at its residents and not tourists.
Hawaii Lawmakers Have Tried for Years to Regulate Online Gambling
Hawaii online gambling laws were last submitted to the state legislature in January 2012. There was a new bill every year for five years, but none in the past three. There is little or no support for online gaming in Hawaii. Industry observers do not think there will be an attempt to legalize online gaming in 2017.
All Games Would Have Been Legal
Online poker was just one of the allowed games. Several online casino games would have also been available. There was no skill requirement for online games so slots, roulette and craps would have been allowed, in addition to skill games such as blackjack and video poker. Players would be required to be at least 18 years of age to play and physically located in Hawaii at the time of play. Most other states that have proposed online poker have limited it to players 21 years of age or older.
The bills would have allowed Hawaii to network their online poker rooms with other states, assuming it did not violate federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice has given the opinion that it is legal for states to link their lotteries and other forms of gambling as long as all states involved had agreed to do so.
Regulations Left up to Lottery Board
The bills did not give guidelines as to how much rake would be paid, how taxes would be handled, or how many potential companies could be licensed. This was left up to the lottery board of directors to set. The bill mostly set out how the board of directors would be organized and the rules on how elections, appointments and votes would occur. It also spelled out how the lottery board could spend the revenue generated, most of which would go towards education.
Hawaii seems like a natural fit for online gambling. Las Vegas is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Hawaii residents. Boyd Gaming, one of the largest Las Vegas casino companies, has several properties that specifically cater to residents of Hawaii. The lack of gambling in Hawaii forces casino players to leave the island when they get the urge to gamble. If Hawaii is ever able to pass online gambling regulations it would help keep some of that money within the state.
Hawaii lawmakers have not attempted to legalize online poker since 2013, but are looking to bring it back to life in 2017. The bill died so many times over the years with little interest that it appears Hawaii will not have any legalized online gambling in the near future.