New Gambling Bill Appears

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BY JIM DOOLEY – A bill that would have given tax breaks to parents buying back-to-school supplies for their children has been gutted and replaced with language allowing internet poker games and poker tournaments in Hawaii.

Rep. Angus McKelvey

Representative Angus McKelvey, D-10th (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei, North Kihei), said revenue raised by the poker games could pay for the school supplies tax breaks and other worthy programs.


The measure would permit “peer-to-peer internet gaming” involving “human players competing against other players from around the world in a virtual gaming room that is hosted by the licensed site.”

The program would be “unlike traditional internet gaming in which players play against a computerized house similar to video poker machines in destinations like Las Vegas.”

Companies interested in running the program here would have to bid at least $100 million for state licenses and would have to pay 20 per cent of total wagers to the state.

The bill, SB755, was passed during a joint hearing today of the Economic Revitalization and Business Committee and the Labor and Public Employment Committee.

Republican minority members of the committees voted against it. Democratic members were in favor, although some expressed reservations.

During discussion on the measure, Rep. Tom Brower, D-w3rd (Waikiki, Ala Moana) asserted that online gambling is legal now in Hawaii.

“You can gamble in Hawaii today online. So there is gambling legally in Hawaii online,” Brower said.

Rep. Barbara Marumoto, R-19th (Waialae Iki, Kalani Valley, Waialae Nui, Diamond Head, Kahala), then said, “Gambling is illegal in Hawaii.”

Brower responded, “People are doing it. There’s not a law against it, is my understanding. There is not a law that says you may not gamble online in Hawaii.”

Rep. George Fontaine, R-11th (Makena, Wailea, Kihei), a retired Maui police officer, set the record straight.

Source from the live dealer casino websites, “Online gambling is illegal, period. Whether you’re doing it from your living room on a computer to some server in the Bahamas, it’s still illegal, regardless of whether people do it or not,” Fontaine said.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-50th (Kailua, Kaneohe), wondered why testimony received on the revised bill was uniformly favorable.

“Its very strange that we don’t have opposing testimony from groups that have been so vigilant against keeping gambling out of Hawaii,” Thielen said. “I believe they’ve been caught by surprise.”

McKelvey said the bill would be forwarded to the House Finance Committee where opponents could testify against it.

“I’m sure opponents will be more than vociferous about this,” McKelvey said.






  1. Gambling has lots of problems, but high-end gaming just might leverage Waikiki into the worldwide “resort of choice” for the 21st Century. Or maybe Molokai and/or Lanai (if folks there then think it makes sense).

    I admit I could be all or partly wrong. But I may be right — and therefore it’s worth more than a “trading soundbites” looksee. Neal Abercrombie might ask for, say, an 18-24 month interval of public debate followed by legislative consideration. Ah, leadership.

    But don’t count on it… Dear Leader is… well… Dear Leader.

  2. People who think poker is gambling are just not very good at it.

    Poker is not gambling cause:
    1) You are not playing against the house

    2) No matter what cards you are dealt, the best hand does not always win, through strategic bets. Thats where skill comes in. If you fold the best hand to a worse hand, you were out played and skill won over chance.

    3) In gambling, the gamblers have no control of the outcome, like roulette or slots or lottery. You either win, or loose. In poker, you have control of the outcome of whether you win, loose, or not play the hand at all.

    4) Short term variance has nothing to do with being a winning poker players. Just cause you lost a hand that you were ahead in, doesnt make it gambling. If you play the same hand over 100 times, you will win the correct amount of time based on statistical averages for that hand.

    Poker is a skills game much like chess, bridge, backgammon, golf, etc… Poker doesnt belong in gambling statute. Hawaii should be hosting international poker tournaments and attract those tourist dollars.

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