The Hawaiian Homes Commission is scheduled to meet on Monday to consider a legislative proposal that would allow gambling in Hawaii, but only for the limited purpose of casino gaming and only on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) land in Kapolei. If the proposal passes, it will next go to the governor then to the legislature.
Under the bill, gambling would be legalized in Hawaii, at least as far as a Kapolei casino is concerned. A Hawaii Gaming Commission would be set up and it will have the power to approve or revoke gaming licenses as well as investigate gaming companies. The licenses would be restricted to DHHL lands in Kapolei that are set aside for commercial use and DHHL will get tax payments on gaming revenues.
In a statement, DHHL Deputy chair Tyler Iopeka homes said:
“Given the impact of COVID-19 on our economy, the Department is proposing a bold measure that’s proven successful for indigenous groups in generating critically needed revenue to improve the lives of their people. We are at a pivotal moment in the history of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and resources to develop infrastructure and acquire lands will be needed to fulfill the vision of Prince Kuhio.”
Not Enough Funding
Even before the pandemic began, DHHL said that the state wasn’t providing it the right amount of funding to fulfill its function. Currently, there are about 28,000 Hawaiians on the wait list for a homestead lot. But at the state’s current funding level, the DHHL says it would take them “one hundred years” to fulfill the needs of its beneficiaries. The DHHL is hoping that legalizing gambling would help them build more homes for Hawaiians.
The proposal did not specify a location for the casino. However, speculations have centered on a land near the DHHL’s Ka Makana Alii Shopping Center. In recent years, there have been several hotels built near that area and these establishments would benefit from the establishment of a Kapolei casino.
Unlikely to Get Legislature’s Approval
DHHL notes in a bill summary that the proposal is still under review for inclusion in the governor’s administrative package of bills for the next legislative session which will begin on January 20, 2021. Just like any proposed change in law, it will still have to go through the legislature for approval, which right now seems unlikely.
Last Monday, Senate President Ron Kouchi said that he will not support any plan to legalize gambling any form of gambling in Hawaii. Kapolei representative Sen. Mike Gabbard also opposes the proposed bill saying that gambling is well outside the DHHL’s mandate of providing housing for Hawaiians. Moreover, Gabbard says that a Kapolei casino will only lead to poverty, substance abuse, and other negative impact on Hawaiian families.