Poker bill bets on a flop

A bill to make Hawai‘i a mecca for live and online poker tournaments seems to be the last gasp of gambling advocates in the Legislature after the apparent failure of of casinos in Waikiki, shipboard gambling, bingo on Hawaiian Homes lands and other gaming measures.

SB 755, which originally passed the Senate as a measure to help kids buy school supplies before being gutted by two House committees, is probably a non-starter in terms of attracting significant poker business to Hawai‘i.

Trying to pass off poker as a game of skill rather than gambling is dubious, the vigorish for the state that legislators are demanding from poker promoters appears exorbitant and the interstate commerce issues are tricky.

But if the bill passes, it’ll no longer be said that Hawai‘i is one of only two states without gambling, which will provide a foot in the door that gives more hope to promoters of other forms of gambling.

Gaming advocates are seizing on the panic that the crisis in Japan will drive the Hawai‘i economy back into deep recession and further deplete state revenues.

But the fact is that any gambling operation would take years to start generating significant revenue and would contribute absolutely nothing to solving our current woes.

Not to mention that gambling is a poor economic hedge against recession. Nevada, which depends more on gambling than any other state, has been one of the hardest hit. Do legislators seriously think that Japanese who are staying home as their country recovers from a devastating blow, would come if we had slot machines?

Gambling would change the fabric of our local society and reshape our visitor industry in ways we don’t fully understand.

If we go there, it should be after careful consideration in calmer times — not as an opportunistic quick hit by those lacking real ideas for digging out of our economic sinkhole.

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7 Comments on “Poker bill bets on a flop”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I strongly support legalizing some forms of gambling here in Hawai`i – a lottery, bingo games, horse racing, and even a range of regulted casino-style games.

    The government should stay out of people’s decisions on how to spend their money.

    I did some research in late 2008 about the amount of money which goes to Las Vegas from Hawai`i. About $500 million left here to go there in 2007.

    Perhaps I should update my research.

    Granted, people will still want to travel and go on vacations, but just imagine if just a fifth of that amount stayed in Hawai`i!!

    As for illegal gambling here, I could only come up with some fairly decent guesstimates based upon police & FBI reports and talks with people with direct knowledge on both sides of the table.

    According to these folks, probably close to one BILLION in illegal gambling quickly floats out of the state and almost nothing is paid in taxes nor flows through the economy except in very limited ways.

    The same arguments about legal gambling are made about decriminalizing certain drugs or legalizing voluntary human euthanasia.

    Doesn’t the government have anything better to do than to turn people into criminals?

  2. MynahBlog Says:

    Will Hawaii, once again, succumb to its prudish, missionary-induced reluctance to let people play games of chance? We have stood by while other markets built casinos that lured away much of our east-bound market. A classic example of attempting to legislate morality and cutting our own economic throat.

  3. Richard Gozinya Says:

    At this point, the legislature can comfortably say it explored all options to balance the budget and the only remaining choice is to…wait for it…raise the GET.

    Of course, weeping and gnashing will accompany this announcement but it is “inevitable in the face of unprecedented and unexpected economic challenges.”

    Funny but when my Mainland guests were here this weekend they were aghast at the vast range of unexploited revenue opportunities. Pier 38 area – they were shocked at the waste of a great opportunity. Kewalo Basin area they called a “joke” in a place where a Fishermans’ Wharf and Ocean entertainment center would be a goldmine. Our airport was deemed dreadful and dull in its failure to meet the consumers’ needs. And that was just Oahu! Aiyah! The shame.

    Point is, the poker bill, as with any gambling initiative no matter how benign, is simply one more example of how our State misses the revenue opportunities while cranking up fees and taxes and cutting basic services.

  4. Michael Says:

    Bring back Organized Gangs. Underworld. Triads. Mafia to Hawaii. Legalize chicken fighting. Legalize dog fighting. Legalize everything and you would not need an ethics commission. Make all that is immoral legal. Legalize football pools. Make it legal to bet on School sports. What next? Why not just paint Oahu all RED. Call this Purgotory. Who wants to visit Purgatory?

    Japan would not come to Hawaii for Slot machines, maybe Pachinko Machines if the prize is right.
    Hawaii had horse races before but many don’t know cause they were not brought up with all this. What they know is from google or yahoo.

    Legalize gangs who represent people who are forced to join. I call this legal gangs unions. Let unions take over Bingo games and other money making ventures. There were no unions before but gangs who controlled those who work and strong arm if you resist. Hawaii is already run by Business persons.
    Just bring in Yakuza and there goes our problems. Not! Capiche? Aiyah, Tong Society.

  5. Rob Says:

    I bet there is more gang activity in protection rackets now that if gaming was legalized…

    why this is such an issue every year is beyond me. Obviously most Hawaii residents have no problem with gambling… as seen in our office pools, trips to Vegas, chicken fights, and Chinatown parlors. Who are we kidding? and What are people afraid of? And who is anyone to tell me how I should or shouldn’t spend my money???

  6. ppcc Says:

    Rob:
    Could it be that Hawaiian Air, Las Vegas hotels frequented by Hawaii residents, travel agents, etc. hire lobbyists backed up with lots of money/perks to give directly/indirectly to our elected officials to influence them to squash reasonable gambling measures in the State of Hawaii? What is the profit that Hawaiian Air and the rest of these companies and organizations makes on Hawaii residents who regularly travel to Las Vegas to gamble?

    I don’t think I am that far off given it was KITV and NOT the Star Advertiser that reported a few days ago that Nestor Garcia never disclosed that hew is paid $60K/yr by rail special interest, even though he has made numerous rail decisions as a City council member. And wasn’t just in the news with Todd Apo and ethics violations while he was a council member? Is it any wonder the rail project continues to progress this far even though the public does not want it is clear it CANNOT be afforded by Hawaii residents? I don’t know if Cayetano and the other lawyer Yost are going to add these issues in the lawsuit against the rail but it is clear that our current elected officials are taking in BIG MONEY directy or indirectly from special interest, further validated by the fact Brickwood Galuteria and Oshiro are pushing so hard to our elected officials to LEGALLY continue to receive perks and $$ from special interest in exchange for legislation and voting that favor these special interest. Is it any wonder all elected officals want to raise taxes yet will not demand independent audits to weed out rampant gov’t waste, graft and corruption. This is especially relevant regarding the DOE and how they make up around 40% of the State general fund budget.

    Also why is only Republican Cynthia Thielen speaking out against some bill that might be passed that will allow HECO to attempt to build an inter island power transmission cable and no matter how much it will cost or whether it succeeds or fails, State legislatures will allow HECO to force Hawaii residents to pay for this project AND at a profit for HECO. Also even after billions is paid by taxpayers to setup this cable and they litter much of Molokai and Lanai with windmills to generates power to Oahu, HECO will take all of these profits. Why doesn’t the State work on the easiest and most straightforward, “no brainer”, “low hanging fruit” project of putting a photovoltaic “farm” on the entire roof of Ala Moana shopping center? The State would require HECO and the PUC to work with PV contractors and General Growth properties for use of their roof, in exchange for consideration of elimination of General Growth’s electric bill paid to HECO. Just go to Google Earth and examine the massive open flat roof of Ala Mo that is plastered by direct sun for most of the day and is just wasted space that can be put to good use WITHOUT the public having to spend $1 BILLION on a sketchy inter island transmission cable (ie not too long ago an inter island underwater fiber optic cable was severed and will require months and millions to repair) and destroying the natural beauty of the islands. Once this PV farm is installed, you don’t even need employees on site to maintain the panels as they can all be easily monitored on the Internet via computer. Extra power generated beyond what Ala Moana Ctr needs can be easily dispersed to the surrounding buildings in the area. An EIS can be done but NO negative impact will result of just putting PV panels on the Ala Mo roof.

    Our City and State gov’t is messed up big time and at what point do Hawaii residents who actually work and pay taxes AND are not on some special interest gravy train say enough is enough?

    PS:
    Just read an article in the StarAdver that businessman Shidler is trying to get sell off many of his Oahu commercial properties. The guy is a shrewd businessman and he appears to be the “canary in the coal mine” that he wants to greatly reduce his business holdings in Hawaii and shift them elsewhere. He might still call Hawaii home but appears he sees a growing toxic business environment in Hawaii and wants to get out BEFORE it goes from bad to worse.

  7. ppcc Says:

    correction:
    “State would require HECO and the PUC to work with PV contractors and General Growth properties for use of their roof, in exchange for consideration OR elimination of General Growth’s electric bill paid to HECO”


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