Gambling in Hawaii? No Dice.

With the Hawaii State Legislature about to go into session for 2009, the question of gambling is sure to appear on the agenda. The issue appears every year, with some discussion and little change. Hawaii and Utah remain the only states without legalized gambling of any kind.

Despite the ban, gambling actually abounds in Hawaii. Hawaii residents still find ways to place bets and play games of chance, and visitors can, too. Hawaii’s love of gambling can be seen in Nevada’s casinos, the top destination for islanders and sometimes referred to as the “ninth Hawaiian island.” The California Hotel and Casino charters more than 10,000 Hawaii travelers every month to Las Vegas. Several lottery and casino companies continually lobby the legislature and business leaders to open the way for them to set up in Hawaii.

No soap so far.

But the economy is spurring some re-thhinking. Without question, the state — and the visitor industry in particular — could use some stimulation. A state senator has said she may propose a bill this session to allow electronic gambling such as slot machines in resort communities to create a new revenue stream, indicating the bill would likely be limited to Honolulu and to designated sites such as hotels. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he would oppose any effort to legalize gambling in Waikiki or anywhere else on Oahu. Hawaii governor Linda Lingle has opposed gambling and says now, “I haven’t changed my opinion one bit.”

Honolulu city officials, including the police chief, say they would oppose any proposal to legalize gambling on Oahu, citing the social costs that come with that. According to city council member, who is not completely opposed to the idea, “We should examine legalizing gambling everywhere throughout the state, and we need to do it with eyes open about the enormous social costs that come with legalization.”

So it would appear that Hawaii will remain free of legalized gambling. As members of the local visitor industry, we at Hawaii Aloha Travel believe that’s a good thing. One of the great things about Hawaii is that it’s largely a family destination. That means there’s a lot of things to do here without having gambling as part of your vacation mix. You can come to Hawaii and not have to worry about losing your shirt in a casino. It’s also no secret that a Hawaii vacation can be costly, so gambling is another expense you won’t have to worry about while you’re here.

Posted by: Jamie Winpenny