Will Hawaii Approve Proposal for Kapolei Casino?

A proposal by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands calls for the creation of a limited casino gaming resort in Kapolei. If the proposal receives approval by the Hawaiian Homes Commission next week, the state may be one step closer to introducing its first casino.

DHHL Calls for the Creation of a Limited Casino in Kapolei

Currently, there are only two U.S. states that haven’t legalized any commercial gambling. Those are Utah and Hawaii. However, the strict gambling laws may change, at least for Hawaii, if a proposal by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) receives approval next week.

The proposal submitted by the DHHL to the Hawaiian Homes Commission calls for the authorization of the creation of a “limited casino gaming in the form of a single integrated resort property” located in Kapolei. The DHHL proposes that the resort is built on Hawaiian Home Lands designated for commercial use. As a reason supporting the proposal, DHHL points out “funding shortfalls to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands” which were worsened by the shutdown introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the impact of COVID-19 on our state’s economy, the department is proposing a bold measure that has proven successful for indigenous groups in generating critically needed revenue to improve the lives of their people.

Tyler Iokepa Gomes, DHHL Deputy Chair

In a statement, DHHL Deputy Chair, Tyler Iokepa Gomes, deemed the proposition as a “bold measure“. He acknowledged the economic impact on the state inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic and said that the proposition will generate critically needed revenue.

The DHHL proposal will be discussed by the Hawaiian Homes Commission next week during its meetings on December 21 and December 22. Before this, public testimony will be launched as well.

If the proposal by DHHL is approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission next week, it will then head to Governor David Ige’s office pending yet another approval. If the Governor as well gives a green light, it will be up to the Senate and House legislature to consider the proposal.

In case the proposal passes through the whole process, still, it will need to be voted to become a law. A commission would then need to be established in order to elect a licensee for the integrated resort project. Although this sounds like a lengthy process, the legislative season starts next month and if the bill is introduced, Hawaii may not have to wait long to initiate the process for legalizing its first casino.

I question whether it’s even legal for DHHL to do this with their proposed bill, given that gambling is not allowed in our state.

Senator Mike Gabbard

During an online press conference this week, State Senator Mike Gabbard revealed that he opposes the DHHL proposal. He said that for the time as an elected official, he has opposed gambling mainly because of the social costs. Furthermore, according to Gabbard, casinos bring an increase in gambling addiction. Consequently, this leads to poverty and various abuses. “It has an overall negative impact on families,” explained Gabbard.

Another point which Gabbard raised was whether it is legal for DHHL to call for the creation of a casino, considering that gambling is prohibited in Hawaii. He acknowledged that the proposal brings legal questions on both state and federal levels. According to Gabbard, this is mainly because Native Hawaiians have still not received federal recognition like Native Americans.

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