Hawaii is one of just two states in the nation that has no form of legalized gambling — no state lotteries, no casinos, no horse races, and no sports betting. The other state without any form of legal gaming is Utah.

Yet some political observers and law enforcement officials say they believe the Akaka Bill, should it be approved by the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and President George W. Bush, could change all that in the 50th state.

Critics say the bill does not specifically ban gambling within at least 200,000 acres of sovereign lands Hawaiians or other lands a Hawaiian sovereign government could take possession of under this federal legislation, now pending before the full U.S. Senate.

And while Gov. Linda Lingle maintains the Akaka Bill does not permit the legalization of gambling, U.S. Senators who may soon be debating and voting on the measure and the U.S. Justice Department say that is simply not true.

In fact, one of the primary reasons Senators opposing the Akaka Bill say the bill has not been debated or voted upon in the last several days in the U.S. Senate is because U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka refuses to change the bill in any way, including adding language that specifically prohibits legalized gambling in Hawaii.

In a letter published July 19, 2005, from Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, to Steve Chabot, chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Kyl says “Gov. Linda Lingle and Attorney General’s statements on the Akaka Bill leaves many questions unanswered, and are “Evasive regarding gambling on ‘Native Hawaiian’ lands.”

See the letter here: “Member of U.S. Senate Judiciary Outlines Constitutional Concerns of Akaka Bill”

Kyl notes the response from Gov. Linda Lingle and Attorney General Mark Bennett states that there is “no basis for fears that Hawaii will be overrun by gambling interests.”

But Kyl notes all S. 147 guarantees is that the bill “shall not be construed to authorize the Native Hawaiian governing entity to conduct gaming activities under the authority of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act [“IGRA”].”

“Contrary to the belief of some, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is not a federal licensing scheme that creates authority to operate a casino; rather, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act regulates pre-existing tribal authority to engage in gambling. Prior to Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

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