There are only two states in the US where absolutely no gambling is permitted by law – Hawaii and Utah. That number may soon drop to 1 if legislators in Hawaii manage to push at least one of two new bills that seek to legalize lottery and daily fantasy sports respectively.
Hawaii’s Attorney General, Doug Chin, said that the state has some of the strictest gambling laws in the nation, forbidding absolutely any type of wager to be placed on land, or even by water via offshore cruise ships. As such, despite DFS being a self-proclaimed ‘game of skill’, it’s still 100% illegal in the Aloha State.
But studies have shown the historically dogmatic views of Hawaiians are changing. In 2012, a poll revealed the majority of voters favored legalization of a state lottery, as well as offshore gambling on ships. With that in mind, legislators now see lottery and daily fantasy sports as a viable way to fund important programs, like helping to get homeless off the streets.
The two bills in question, each introduced January 25, 2016, are:
HB 1830, scripted to legalize and regulate a state lottery in Hawaii.
HB 1838, scripted to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) in Hawaii.
HB 1830 to Bring Lottery to Hawaii
Introduced to the House by 8 legislative members, HB 1830 would authorize the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) “to license a single operator for a lottery, including keno, in the State.”
The main purpose of the bill is to provide citizens of the state with an opportunity to play the lottery, including the nations incredibly popular Powerball. The majority of the proceeds would benefit the homeless.
Voters have already made it clear that they want a lottery system in Hawaii, and considering the recent $1.5 billion prize paid out just a few weeks ago, the timing of the bill couldn’t have been better.
“The Powerball created a lot of interest, and the timing was impeccable,” said Democratic Rep. John Mizuno, referring to the recent 7-figure payout. “It happened right before the start of the legislative session. Everything collided to have the perfect opportunity to bring this issue up.”
HB 1838 to Legalize DFS Betting
DFS has been a huge topic for legislators across North America, with several Attorneys General declaring the activity gambling, and not a game of skill as major operators like DraftKings and FanDuel insist. But the nature of the games isn’t the question in Hawaii, where the skill-vs-chance element is not a factor in legality.
HB 1838 was introduced by a quadrant of legislators, including Rep. Mizuno, to provide “for the authorization and regulation of fantasy contests”. The measure would establish “consumer protections for participants” and clarify “that fantasy contests shall not be considered gambling or games of chance.”
In addition, operators would be subject to yearly audits and a $25,000 annual fee. They would be required to implement measures to block minors from participating, and rules would be set forth to prohibit ‘insider gambling’ by employees.
Rep. Minuzo suggested everyone “be realists”, and admit that “people gambling everywhere”. He encouraged others to support the legalization of limited gambling, saying, “if we can regulate it properly and benefit from it – get some of the proceeds to help our most needy – then at the end of the day it’s a win-win.”
Already, an estimated 56 million people in North America participate in DFS, and several US states are considering legislation to regulate the industry, including California and Pennsylvania.
Opposition says Gambling Addiction Inevitable
For every coin, there are two sides, and the same goes for legalization of DFS and lottery in Hawaii. Dianne Kay is the President of the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, and as the name implies, they believes authorizing any form of gambling is a big mistake.
“It puts state government into the gambling business, and we believe the state government should respect the citizens, not exploit them,” Dianne Kay “We’d like to keep Hawaii like a tropical paradise rather than a gambling destination.”
But Rep. Mizuno says the impact would be much more beneficial than harmful. The money raised by the state would help fund programs for the homeless and education, and he said he would want another portion to fund programs to battle gambling addiction.