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Bills Filed in Hawaii For Online Poker, Sports Betting

Funds Raised Would Benefit Wildfire Fund


With no legal casinos or card rooms, Hawaii hasn’t exactly been a hotbed for poker. In fact, Hawaii is one of just two states that has outlawed all forms of gambling, the other being Utah.

But that may be changing at least to some extent if legislators can pass a new bill bringing online poker and sports betting to the state.

Sen. Ronald Kouchi (D) has submitted a bill in the state senate and a companion bill has also been filed in the house as well. The bills would legalize online poker and sports betting, and the house version also includes language allowing for a single casino within the Aloha State.

Details On The Plan

The senate bill proposes a profit-sharing plan with a single gaming operator. The state would take 70% of revenue in year one, decreasing by 5% each year until dropping to only 5% by the 14th year. New Hampshire and Rhode Island run similar single-operator plans.

Funds raised would be earmarked for the state’s wildfire fund, to help prevent fires and aid victims. The state is facing significant costs associated with the August wildfires in Maui, which left more than 100 people dead and caused massive property damage in the towns of Lāhainā, Upper Kula, Pūlehu/Kihei and Ka’anapali. The damage is estimated at more than $5 billion.

The senate bill is frank in its language, noting that many on the island already make use of offshore gaming sites for casino play, poker, and sports betting. Backers of the plan hope to bring those players and their dollars into a legal environment that benefits the state.

“To protect Hawaii residents who gamble on the Internet, and to capture revenues generated in Hawaii from online sports wagering and poker, it is in the best interest of the state and its citizens to regulate this existing activity by authorizing and implementing a secure, responsible, and legal system for online sports and poker wagering,” the bill notes.

The Potential Hawaii Poker Market

With a population of just 1.4 million people, Hawaii creating a vibrant online poker player pool on its own seems unlikely, even with tourists.

The bill doesn’t currently include language to join the country’s Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which allows shared liquidity among poker operators in Nevada, Michigan, New Jersey, and Delaware.

That could change as the legislative process progresses. Whether adding funds to the state’s wildfire cause is enough to see the bill passed remains to be seen.

This isn’t the only state looking to add online poker this year. New York legislators are looking at the issue and Maryland legislators are also making a push as well.