Legalized Gambling Proposal Gains New Life at Hawaii Legislature

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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

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.





  1. First, good reporting here. At least you don’t take them for their word. And that they’ve conspired to mislead reporters, voters and elected leaders suggests no one should take them for their word in the future. John Radcliffe, Liz Hata Watanabe, and the Detroit casino syndicate they represent can’t be trusted.

    This so-called “Citizens” group is a for-profit limited liability company organized by the former owner of failed Honolulu nightclub and restaurant operations. When she closed down her businesses she was in hot water with the Honolulu Liqour Commission and regulators.

    The “Citizens”/ LLC filed a report with the Hawaii Ethics Commission disclosing it had spent $40,000 during April on their “Advertising Media” campaign. About 230 groups reported lobbying expenditures; only 4 spent more than the so-called “Citizens” group.

    What was Radcliffe up to when he told one reporter a couple weeks earlier that they would spend “very little?”

    Better yet, if Radcliffe’s not involved and funding the group, why did he even answer the question? Why not defer that to Ms. Watanabe? Why was he deceitful with the reporter? Spending $40,000 ranked his front group among the Top Five Lobbying Spenders. “Very little?” Not.

    So who is bankrolling their scamt? It certainly wasn’t the “founder” of the “Citizens”/LLC because two weeks after making that $40,000 disclosure, Elizabeth C. Watanabe (aka Liz Hata Watanabe), head of the “Citizens”/LLC, filed a $387,000 bankruptcy.

    It’s interesting that she failed to tell the bankruptcy judge about her so-called “Citizens”/LLC. What are they hiding? Given that, it’s relevant to know she’s apparently got a history hiding stuff. Watanabe apparently hid her nightclub books from Liquor Commission investigators for more than four years.

    To add to their deceit, Radcliffe claims he’s not involved in creating, managing or funding the “Citizens” group? Really? ‘Cause his employee, Sudagar Dhandapani, set-up and owns the “Citizens” website.

    And if you look closely at the last bill they attempted to have passed; it’s worded such that few, if any, other than Detroit-based Hawaii Entertainment LLC can actually apply/qualify for the gaming license. Collusion?

    Shame, shame on them! Already attempting to pull off conspiracies, fraud, bankruptcy, etc. and there isn’t even a casino in Waikiki yet. They want our trust? If this were they way an engagement started out, would you go ahead with the marriage?

    Maybe a casino’s a good idea, but not with these people or their clients at the helm.

    More at

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