Gambling bills resurface at State Capitol

Gambling bills resurface at State Capitol
Published: Feb. 4, 2013 at 10:21 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 at 11:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Among the many issues lawmakers are debating again is gambling.  There are nearly three dozen bills at the State Capitol regarding casinos, lotteries or gaming.

One bill in particular would allow churches and non-profits to hold bingo events in order to raise money.  That one has the best chance of going anywhere but we're told it's still a long shot.

Once again Hawaii lawmakers are rolling the dice on legalizing gambling with proposals calling for casinos, lotteries, horse racing and more.  And once again gambling opponents stepped forward with their reasons why it's all a bad idea.

"Crime increases 10 percent approximately every year. It continues to go up once the gambling comes in. People ask well why is that? People lose their money and resort to crime," said John Kindt, University of Illinois Professor. "Slot machines are known as the crack cocaine of creating new addicted gamblers.

"Gambling hurts tourism. It actually kills tourism," continued Kindt. "People who are spending their money gambling are not spending their money in tourist activities. They're not buying cars, computers, refrigerators and even the essentials of life."

"The Honolulu Police Department is opposed to any form of legalized gambling," said Capt. Jerry Inouye, HPD Vice Squad, Gambling Division.

"It acts as a regressive tax against low income people. Low income people spend a higher percentage of their income on gambling versus the rest of the population," said Gavin Thornton, Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice.

"If you're going to bring something like addiction, bankruptcy and crime to Hawaii then obviously the burden is going to fall on the social service organizations and so the churches stand united that gambling is not something we want to bring to our beautiful home state," said Eva Andrade, Hawaii Family Forum.

"Well I think that is a matter of opinion. The bottom line is these gaming bills have been in this body for over 30 years and have heard the gloom and doom speech," said State Senator Malama Solomon, (D) Hilo, Waimea, Kona. "I just feel they are all in a state of denial. I really feel that this state is on the verge of bankruptcy."

Senator Malama Solomon has repeatedly doubled down authoring gambling bills to raise money instead of raising taxes.

This session Representative Joe Souki is House Speaker and also supports gambling.  However even lawmakers who see the value in gambling don't see his position of power as enough to beat the House.

"His rise to being speaker again had nothing to do with whether his supporters gambling or not," said State Senator Will Espero, (D) Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe. "Right now I don't get the feeling the legislature is ready to pass any gambling bills."

"I think you got a better chance of the 49ers getting a 5th quarter yesterday and putting up 60 points than you do of these measures ever reaching the governor's desk," said State Representative Angus McKelvey, (D) West Maui, North Kihei. "You need 26 people (in the House) at the end of the day no matter who the speaker is and given how people responded during the campaign in forums when this question was asked I don't see the support being there."

Lawmakers say if ever there was a time gambling would have been approved it was the last few years, but now that the economy is turning around and Hawaii is coming off a record tourism year there's less incentive to resort to gambling. But you never know.

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