HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - From gambling to marijuana, a controversial series of proposals are being considered to generate new funds for Hawaiian Home Lands.
There are more than 28,000 people on the waitlist for DHHL lots.
And some say bold ideas are needed now to whittle down the list of Native Hawaiians who have been waiting years for land. Opponents say these measures are an act of desperation.
Lawmakers are exploring several measures that would generate new revenue for DHHL, including authorizing a casino, lottery, bingo and a medical marijuana dispensary.
DHHL says its surveys show beneficiaries are evenly split on its controversial casino proposal. Most who testified Thursday at the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee were against it, though.
On the other side, supporters say Native Hawaiians have battled systemic racism and the casino bill would empower them to make their own choices.
“IF DHHL does not receive adequate and timely resources to fulfill their mandate, you are actively perpetuating generational violence against us,” said beneficiary Kamuela Werner.
DHHL says it’ll take billions of dollars for land and infrastructure to get the 28,000 Native Hawaiians off the waitlist and argues legalized gambling can actually be a solution to the social ills cited by law enforcement.
“There are 70 to 100 illegal game rooms so to act that gambling isn’t already occurring does a disservice to the proposal by the department to take some of the revenue from gaming and apply it to assist both social services and law enforcement,” said DHHL Chairman William Aila.
But opponents say DHHL needs better management.
“It’s very upsetting because it’s completely outside their wheelhouse. It’s completely not in their mission,” said Robin Puanani Danner, Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations chairman and Homestead Community Development Corporation CEO.