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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Hawaii lawmakers studying casino proposal

4 February 2010

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- One of only two states without any form of legalized gambling is taking steps to change that status.

A lawmaker in Hawaii has introduced a bill that would legalize casinos in the state. The House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs passed the bill through to the entire legislative body on Wednesday.

The bill amends the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act to authorize casino gambling operations on Hawaiian homelands. It would establish a Hawaii Gaming Commission and currently dictates that 80 percent of tax revenues generated from legalized gaming would be reserved for the Hawaiian Homelands Trust fund; the remaining 20 percent would go to the state's general fund.

Proponents believe Hawaii fiscal crisis made lawmakers more supportive of casino gaming.

"I think when we have these economic hard times, things like this that people don't want to touch because of the politics, I think it's a great opportunity," said Rep. Mele Carroll, D, Lanai-Molokai, chairwoman of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs.

Hawaii and Utah are the only states without any form of legalized gaming.

Hawaii residents make up a large segment of Boyd Gaming Corp.'s downtown casino business.

A lobbyist said the state had proposed two casinos in 2000, one on the North Shore and one on Waikiki. If they were operating, the casinos would have generated $712 million per year and employed 4,000 people.