The Hawai`i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice has released the attached report entitled “Gambling With Paradise: The Effect of Gambling on Low-Income Individuals, Families, and Communities.”

For years, the gaming lobby has pushed hard to legalize gambling and this legislative session is no different. More than ten pro-gambling bills were introduced this session, including proposals for a lottery, a Waikiki casino, shipboard gambling, and even a horse track. Although each of these bills failed, the push for legalized gambling continues. On Friday, the House Committee on Economic Development & Business will consider a resolution to create a gambling task force to examine bringing gambling to Hawai`i.

As detailed in the Gambling With Paradise report, the issue has already been exhaustively studied. Gambling poses significant risks to Hawai`i in general, and its low-income residents in particular:

  • Low-income people spend higher percentages of their income on gambling and lottery tickets than the rest of the population. The tax revenues generated by gambling would disproportionately come out of the pockets of those that can least afford it.
  • Gambling will likely cannibalize existing businesses. Gambling is unlikely to draw additional visitors given the expense of travel to Hawai`i and the abundance of cheaper, well-established gambling destinations. Money spent on gambling will be money that would have otherwise been spent on existing businesses. The introduction of gambling may even reduce overall tourism, as recognized in a resolution recently adopted by the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, expressing concern that legalized gambling runs counter to our Aloha Spirit and could in fact turn visitors away.
  • The presence of legalized gambling will, unsurprisingly, increase the number of Hawai‘i residents who gamble. Individuals who live within ten miles of a casino have more than twice the rate of pathological or problem gambling as those who live further away. Excessive gambling is associated with a variety of costly social problems, including job loss, substance abuse, crime, divorce, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and homelessness.
  • Casinos have been shown empirically to increase the rates of serious crime including rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.
  • Casino gambling can harm our economic well-being and is estimated to cause up to $289 in social costs for every $46 of economic benefit.

In spite of these well-documented problems, states throughout the nation have succumbed to the allure of big revenue projections from gambling, only to find them to be grossly overestimated.[1] Friday’s hearing on the gambling task force resolution will determine whether Hawai`i will start heading down the same path.

For additional information, contact Gavin Thornton or Jenny Lee of Hawai`i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice by email at gavin@hiappleseed.org / jenny@hiappleseed.org or by phone at 587-7605.

Submitted by the Hawai`i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice (hiappleseed.org), a group that advocates on behalf of low-income people in Hawai`i to help them gain access to the resources, services, and fair treatment that they need to realize their opportunities for self-achievement and economic security.


[1] See Capital Gazette, Gambling revenue promises often fall short of reality, Dec. 24, 2012 (available athttp://www.capitalgazette.com/news/government/gambling-revenue-promises-often-fall-short-of-reality/article_34de3832-3197-5288-a94a-a7afe137d299.html); and Statehouse Bureau, Down on its luck: Revel jobs, revenue falling below projections, Aug. 16, 2012 (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/08/post_283.html).