After passionate testimony on both sides, DHHL casino proposal deferred in committee

Updated: Feb. 5, 2021 at 5:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state House committee on Friday deferred a controversial measure that would allow a casino on Hawaiian Home Lands property in Kapolei.

The decision came after passionate testimony on both sides of the issue.

Hawaiian Home Lands deputy Chair Tyler Iokepa Gomes said the proposal would create housing for Native Hawaiians on their land.

“It is the only solution out there that currently exists to solve the $4.5 billion gap, the 28,000 Native Hawaiians living and dying on the waitlist,” said Gomes.

“Institutionalized racism continues to dominate the discourse,” he added.

DHHL says a casino would rake in at least $30 million per year and create 2,000 to 7,000 jobs.

“Native Hawaiians have been expected to make the most with what we have and we are expected to do it well, because if we don’t, there is a narrative that we can’t help ourselves,” said Gomes.

But others said a casino in Hawaii is just a bad idea.

Honolulu prosecutors say a new gambling industry would increase crime, sex trafficking, domestic violence and addictions.

“This is simply just not the way to raise funds is to introduce such a dangerous and known danger to the state,” said Trisha Nakamatsu, prosecuting attorney.

HPD pointed out there are 70 to 100 game rooms on Oahu and gambling raids happen weekly.

The committee chairman said that means the illegal gambling industry is pervasive.

“I have a casino in my hometown in Haleiwa right next to my house. If you guys want go there after work, we can do some gaming together and we just walk in,” said State Rep. Sean Quinlan, chair of the Economic Development Committee.

Quinlan asked whether a legal casino might take customers from the game rooms while solving the Homelands shortage.

Clearly struggling, committee leaders ultimately deferred the measure.

“It’s about priorities and Hawaiians are not a priority. I’m not trying to blame anybody, but as one of the few Hawaiians in the legislature somebody has got to say something,” said state Rep. Daniel Holt, vice chair of the Economic Development Committee.

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