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INDUSTRY NEWS: Hawaii Sports Betting Task Force Included In Slew Of Gambling Bills

Hawaii Sports Betting

Hawaii doesn’t have a State-run Lottery, and they don’t allow gambling of any kind. At least, not yet. Notably, Hawaii doesn’t have a professional sports franchise, but that doesn’t need to suggest that Islanders don’t love sports.

The Hawaii Bowl and the Hula Bowl have much-anticipated college football events that take place on Oahu and Maui, and the NFL Pro Bowl celebrates top players from the NFL in an all star game a week after the Super Bowl. There are quite a few Golf tour Championships, the Iron Man, college Basketball tournaments, and Hawaii’s University of Hawaii sports teams that have avid fans and supporters.

While Hawaii’s residents can only legally place sport’s bets at offshore sportsbooks that are not registered in the United States, these sites are not subject to United States laws.

While there are some good, legitimate sports betting sites offshore, the State of Hawaii can not effectively protect its residents. Those who support attempts to legalize gambling in Hawaii have argued that the State loses vast tax revenue to these offshore sites as well as the ability to control the societal concerns opponents to gambling espouse.

Hawaii Sports Betting: Senate and House of Representatives

This year, the Hawaiian Senate and House of Representatives are considering a host of gambling bills. The Covid-19 pandemic has abruptly interrupted Hawaii’s huge tourism market and has caused much financial stress for the State. Perhaps this will be the impetus needed to crack the gambling wall.

While there is still opposition to a retail sportsbook in the form of casinos on the Islands, there appears to be some interest in digital sports betting for a possible five business licensed by the State. However, one of the bills introduced into the legislature would permit a license for one gaming resort. I have heard that the Governor does not support such a bill.

There are 6 House Bills and 4 Senate Bills currently under consideration. One House Bill would permit charities to run online raffles, one House and one Senate Bill each propose would a State lottery that would not offer sports betting. One House and one Senate Bill propose creating a task force analyzing the potential for gambling and or sports betting.

Another House bill would create a commission to open live poker rooms. There are 2 Bills that are of most interest to those interested in Sports Betting.

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The first is S.B. No. 595 introduced into the Senate, which is a Bill for an Act related to Sports Gambling. This Act aims to create a sports gambling task force to examine the economic feasibility of implementing sports gaming in Hawaii.

The task force is due to report on the status of its findings and recommendations and any proposed legislation no later than 20 days prior to convening the regular sessions of 2022 and 2023. So while this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t appear that there is any real urgency to pass this legislation.

The second bill of interest is House Bill No. 736 Relating to Sports Betting. Part 1 amends the definition of gambling to exclude digital sports betting on a platform licensed pursuant to state law. Gambling also excludes not include bona fide business transactions under the law of contracts. This is good because with gambling still illegal in Hawaii, an exception for sports betting would be carved out.

Part 2 requires the department of business economic development and tourism to license businesses in the State to operate digital sports betting platforms, issuing licenses to no more than five businesses in the State.

This bill requires a report on the sports betting pilot program’s status 20 days prior to the regular session of 2022, making this bill seem much more timely and purposeful. At least for me, there is some confusion in this bill because part 3 also amends the definition of gambling, similar to the amendment in Part 1, but doesn’t include digital sports betting.

With the slew of Bills being introduced in the Hawaiian legislature, it seems that they are looking to bring in extra revenue to the State of Hawaii. This is especially true because the tourism industry has been so woefully impacted this year. Stay tuned. It seems like there is some movement on the Islands!

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