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Plan to build casino on Hawaiian Home Lands in Kapolei a big gamble, critics say

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is floating an idea of building a casino in Kapolei.
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is floating an idea of building a casino in Kapolei.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 6:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A proposal to build a stand-alone casino resort on property owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is facing heavy opposition from community leaders and lawmakers.

“With gambling, and specifically a casino, you see an increase in addiction to gambling, which leads to more poverty, substance abuse and it has an overall negative impact on families,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who represents the Kapolei area.

“Gambling is well outside the DHHL’s mission to provide housing for native Hawaiians, which I feel strongly that should be their continued focus. Additionally, as far as I know, the DHHL does not have expertise in the gambling arena,” he added.

Community activist and longtime Makakilo resident Kioni Dudley says a casino will hurt working-class residents in West Oahu.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea to put it in the midst of people who don’t have the money to gamble. That’s just wrong,” he said.

Even before the pandemic, the DHHL said the state wasn’t providing it with enough funding to fulfill its mission. It hopes that legalizing gambling will help it build more homes for Hawaiians.

There are about 28,000 Hawaiians on the wait-list for a homestead lot. But at the state’s current funding levels, the DHHL said it would take “another hundred years to meet the needs of its beneficiaries.”

While the measure does not identify a specific location where the casino will be built, speculation has centered on land near the DHHL’s Ka Makana Alii shopping center.

There are already a number of hotels that have been built nearby in recent years, which would benefit from the development of a casino.

The casino measure still needs to be approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission next week before it can be introduced to the Legislature.

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