BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – Although all gambling-related bills have been struck down in the current session of the state legislature it is clear that unless Hawaii can generate some amazing new form of income for the state legalized gambling eventually will find a home in the islands. Excuse me, not gambling. Gaming. “Gaming” is the preferred phraseology for the sport of risking one’s money on games of chance by those who usually control those games of chance ( i.e. casino corporations) and among people who hate the letters “B” and “L”. (People who hate the letters “B” and “L” often have a hard time ordering a sandwich consisting of bacon, lettuce and tomato because they insist on referring to it as a “T”.)
The “gaming industry” likes the term “gaming” because it sounds like fun, opposed to the term “gambling” which sounds like “you’re going to be in big trouble with the wife when you get home, buster.” (“Honey, I know I blew our rent at the, ah, gaming place but it was so much fun! A guy can have a little fun, can’t he?”)
Gaming is big business across the country. Only two states don’t have any form of legal gaming: Utah and Hawaii. The key word there is “legal” since both states have plenty of illegal gaming AND gambling. In Hawaii, residents gamble millions of dollars at illegal cockfights, hidden slot machine palaces and poker rooms while Utah residents (some, anyway) gamble that having more than one wife at a time is swell idea.
The reason most states have some form of gaming is because politicians figured out that, without it, there was no way to generate the massive amount of money needed to keep a state going: building bridges, paving roads, picking up garbage, paying armies of unionized government employees, subsidizing bogus wind farms and other “green” financial fiascos and generally just blowing cash the way only finely-tuned, professional elected money-spenders can. And money has to be generated. The government, federal or state, doesn’t generate new money. It spends money. I’m not picking on government employees because, frankly, I’d love to be one, but the fact is money paid to employees of government doesn’t generate more money, it CIRCULATES money generated from somewhere else. That somewhere else has to be from private business.
Now, it’s true that legalized gaming in some states doesn’t “generate” money either. It essentially is a voluntary tax on citizens willing to reach deeper into their pockets to play a game they likely will lose, like the lottery. But states that got into the legal gaming game early did generate some money because people from states that didn’t have gaming would drive over and leave their rent money in adjacent jurisdictions. That was sweet of them. But as more and more states legalized gaming, the suckers, I mean, would-be visitors, decided to just lose their money in their own states, which at least saved wear and tear on the Winnebago.
And that’s why Hawaii eventually will legalize gambling. Because we don’t have any adjacent jurisdictions. Our economy is based on fleecing visitors who fly across the Pacific Ocean in airplanes, albeit fleecing them in a nice sunny atmosphere with plenty of flower lei and aloha. Visitors to Hawaii even have to pay extra “state fleecing fees” for hotel rooms, rental cars and even some beaches. The problem is that with the country in a financial funk, our stream of visitors shrinks. And it doesn’t help when nuclear power plants in Japan decide to blow up and sour residents there on traveling.
While some local citizens will take part in legal gaming in Hawaii when it arrives, most of the money likely will be generated from visitors. It will be a completely new income stream into the Hawaii economy. And since there aren’t a lot of completely new income streams Hawaii can tap into, we’re going to have to go with gaming eventually.
Some Hawaii residents aren’t going to like having to make this choice. But President Ulysses S. Grant didn’t like opening up the Black Hills to gold mining in 1875, either. The Black Hills had been given to the Indians by treaty. But the country was in a painful economic depression following the Civil War and was printing money like it was made of, well, paper. (Sound familiar?) And Grant came to the conclusion that “thar’s money in them thar hills”, canceled the treaty and raided that new income stream for the country’s sake. (Ironically, it would be Indian tribes which would eventually completely embrace the new income stream of legalized gaming.)
The choice to legalize gaming in Hawaii isn’t as odious as Grant’s actions were. In fact, Hawaii could even help Native Hawaiians but cutting them in on a portion of gambling revenues. Tourists are our Black Hills. And it would more honest to mine them with games of chance then to pick their pockets with ever-increasing tourist taxes, fees, duties and levies. That’s just not sporting.