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Hawaii's Pro and Anti Legalized Gambling Forces Step Up Lobbying Efforts

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - Like last year, and many years before, there’s a big push to legalize gambling at the Hawaii State Legislature.

Hawaii is one of only two states – the other being Utah – that has no form of legalized gaming. If some lawmakers have their way, that will change, but anti-gambling forces in Hawaii are still strong.

Twenty-nine bills were introduced at the legislature this year related to some form of gambling, one of the primary ones being HB 2788, a bill that allows the establishment of a single stand-alone casino in Waikiki.

John Radcliffe, lobbyist for a Detroit casino group, said a casino would create 10,000 jobs and bring $100 million into the economy.

Hawaii residents enjoy traveling to Las Vegas for a weekend of gambling – in fact Las Vegas is often referred to as “Hawaii’s 9th Island’ – and Radcliffe said the casino here would keep them spending their money at home.

HB 2788, set to be heard on Monday at 9 a.m. in Room 312, will likely pass the House Tourism Committee, because House Tourism Chair Tom Brower favors the concept. But the bill needs enough momentum to gain the support of the majority of 76 lawmakers and key committee heads – and all this in an election year.

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s Coalition Against Legalized Gambling recruited John W. Kindt, PhD, Professor of Business and Legal Policy in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, to travel to Hawaii this week to tell a different side of the story.

Kindt met with lawmakers and business groups this week emphasizing the danger of legalizing any form of gambling. He said if Hawaii lets in one casino or any kind of gambling, other casinos will follow.

The most formidable type of gambling is through slot machines, Kindt said. They don’t create jobs, he maintains, because they are electronic. Each machine takes in about $300,000 a year out of the economy, and away from small businesses such as restaurants, shops and activities. If there are 1,000 slot machines in Hawaii, that is about $300 million a year that goes to mainland gaming organizations and not kept here in the Hawaii economy, Kindt said.

In addition, slot machines take away jobs, he said, they don’t create them. There is one lost tourism-related job per slot machine per year, he said.

He also notes legalized gaming attracts unsavory elements of society. As proof, he points to the FBI’s largest fugitive apprehension program, which is in Las Vegas.

Kindt said Hawaii’s culture and environment would forever be changed if gambling was legalized here.

“There is no compromise,” Kindt said.

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