Hawaii has joined the list of U.S. states looking at legalizing online poker in 2017. It is currently the only state apart from Utah that allows no form of legal gambling within its borders although there have been previous attempts to get gaming approved in the state.
Introduced by Sen. Will Espero on Jan. 20 the bill permits a wide range of online casino games to be offered to anyone over the age of 18; however internet sports betting would not be permitted.
Under the terms of the bill, a new regulatory body called Hawaii Internet Lottery And Gaming Corporation will be set up to oversee the operations of internet wagering and gaming and will also look to safeguard Hawaiian players. There is no existing framework or structure for gaming regulation in the state. Revenue from gaming operations is slated to be used for funding public schools and the University of Hawaii as well as other programs including one to address problem gambling.
The provisions of the bill also enable the state to enter into liquidity sharing agreement with other states. Currently only Nevada and Delaware share player liquidity in U.S. The bill also seeks to give a boost to tourism through gaming entertainment events. According to the bill, brick-and-mortar facilities in Hawaii can host two land-based gaming events twice a year which will be overseen by the Hawaii Internet Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Also free-play sweepstakes games having prizes that are Hawaii-based such as vacation packages can be offered to residents outside Hawaii by gaming operators.
Another bill introduced by Joe Souki, the speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives aims to legalize and regulate shipboard gaming in state waters. According to the bill, shipboard gaming would help improve the competitiveness of Hawaii as a tourist destination. It would generate additional revenue for the state as well as create thousands of local jobs.
Vice Speaker John Mizuno on the other hand has mooted the idea of setting a committee to study the impact of gaming in Hawaii. The bill proposing the study has stated that assessment of all related economic costs and benefits should be identified for every form of gaming ranging from lottery to horse and dog racing.
Yet another bill that could be introduced is the controversial daily fantasy sports to the state. Rep. Scott Nishimoto has proposed in a new bill a monitoring program for daily fantasy contests. The state AG had declared last year that daily fantasy sports were illegal under current Hawaiian laws.