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Hawaii and Utah are the only states that have no form of legalized gaming, but a proposal to change that in Hawaii gained new life this afternoon at the Hawaii State Legislature.

Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Big Island, facilitated a “gut and replace” of Senate Bill 1247. The measure, introduced by Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-Makiki, originally dealt with the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Specifically it “Abolishes the Aloha Tower Development Corporation (ATDC).  Transfers the ATDC assets to the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA).  Establishes the Aloha Tower Complex under the jurisdiction of HCDA. Makes an appropriation.  Effective July 1, 2030. (SB1247 HD2)”

The most current legislation establishes a gaming development district and grants a renewable 20-year license for one stand alone casino within the district.  The proposal also establishes a casino gaming control commission. In return, the casino would pay a 15 percent tax on gross receipts. The legislation also creates a state gaming fund and a “compulsive gambler program.”

Lobbying the legislature is a new group, Citizens for a Better Way, which details essentially the same plan at its web site http://citizensforabetterway.com/inthenews.html

As the 60-day Hawaii State Legislative session nears the end, lawmakers are looking for ways to balance the state budget, and estimated $232 million shortfall for 212$1.3 billion shortfall for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

Citizens for a Better Way, which sent a “robo” call to Hawaii homes today asking residents to contact their lawmakers in support of legalized gaming in Waikiki, said their plan would help balance the state budget without raising taxes.

Citizens for a Better Way is not yet registered as a lobbying organization with the state Ethics Commission, according to online disclosure reports.

The group is believed to be affiiliated with a Michigan-based organization, Marketing Resource Group, which is a registered lobbyist here and which represents several gambling entities in Michigan, including MotorCity Casino, Gateway Casino Resorts and Barwest Gambling, LLC., according to the company’s website. The company’s client list also includes a business called Hawaii Entertainment, LLC. That firm is not registered to do business in Hawaii.

MotorCity Casino was among a group of investors that lobbied unsuccessfully here in 2002 for legalized gambling.

The most recent lobbyist disclosure form filed here by Marketing Resource Group, covering Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 of this year, said the firm’s expenses during that period totaled $3,769.63 paid to Hawaii professional lobbyist John Radcliffe.

Citizens for a Better Way says on its website that it was formed by a group of friends who are worried about the future of our islands and who think raising the State’s General Excise Tax will make things only worse.”

It proposes a single casino that “would blend into the Waikiki District, with the operator to be selected through competitive bidding. The winning bidder would be required to pay an “impact fee” of $50 million to $60 million.

Hawaii Reporter left messages for the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling this afternoon, a group that has lobbied against any form of legalized gaming in Hawaii. Its members include an alliance of “civic, conservation, education, environment, law enforcement, political, public health, religious, senior citizen, small business, youth and other community organizations,” its web site said.


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