Powerball mania reignites lottery debate in islands
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Powerball mania nationally is reigniting discussions about bringing the lottery to Hawaii.
Hawaii is one of six states in the country without the lottery, and several community leaders say maybe that should change.
House Speaker Joseph Souki says he's ready to take a gamble on the lottery.
"Any form of enhancement would be good," he said. "Gambling is simply another form of enhancement of revenue."
Over the years he's backed several gaming bills. But every session, the idea was shot down.
State Rep. Angus McKelvey said one of the gambling measures that will be presented this spring centers around fantasy sports.
"The fantasy sports seem to be particularly different because it's much more skill based than traditional gambling where chance is a prevalent factor," McKelvey said.
Republican state Sen. Sam Slom gets the hype. But he isn't a fan of bills that would allow a lottery in Hawaii.
"My mantra has always been we've got to improve our economy," he said. "A lottery payoff doesn't do that."
The president of the Hawaii State Teacher's Association agrees, saying he's looked into the benefit lotto would bring to the state's public school system and wasn't impressed.
"People think it's going to bring in millions and millions of dollars for education and other programs. It does not," said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. "Seventy to 75 percent goes to pay for the prizes and just to run the lottery. In the end very little actually goes to the programs they think it's going to increase."
Several residents Hawaii News Now spoke to said they'd support bringing a lottery to the islands.
"I'd buy a ticket," said resident Butch Dela Cuesta.
Resident Ben Merritt said, "It could benefit the educational system and a whole lot of other things."
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