Hawaii sports betting could be on the table to help the state boost revenue with its lifeblood tourism economy all but at a standstill.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping many tourists at home, the state faces a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in each of the next four years.
There are no forms of legal gambling currently offered in Hawaii.
Hawaii sports betting bills
SB 595 proposes the creation of a sports gambling task force. The task force would submit recommendations and any proposed legislation during the regular sessions of 2022 and 2023.
HB 736 amends the state’s definition of gambling to exclude “digital” sports betting and deal with it separately. The bill would create a pilot program through the state’s department of business, economic development and tourism to issue licenses for mobile Hawaii sports betting. Findings, recommendations and proposed legislation would be due during the 2022 session.
HB 850 would legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports in Hawaii, exempting them from current state gambling laws.
Multiple other bills could be in play
Two similar bills in the Hawaii Senate and House of Representatives propose a casino-resort operated by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.
Funds from the casino would help a waitlist of approximately 28,000 native Hawaiians move back to their ancestral lands.
Other bills in the chambers propose a state lottery and a single casino-resort at the Hawaii Convention Center. One House bill proposes a task force to study the potential of offshore gaming, a lottery and two casinos.
Sports betting largely not included
Bills proposing a lottery, like HB 363 and SB 561, largely prohibit the entity from offering sports betting.
Those companion bills recommend revenue from the lottery head to capital improvements at public schools and the University of Hawaii system, including scholarships and educational loan repayments for medical students who practice in Hawaii.
Additional funds would support watershed protection, and reduction and prevention of problem gambling.
Hawaiian gambling outlook
Unless Gov. David Ige changes his mind on casinos, retail sportsbooks are unlikely. If Hawaii sports betting legislation eventually is passed, it will likely be a mobile-only model.
Hawaii has one of the smallest populations in the United States, so the revenue outlook isn’t likely large. With approximately 1.4 million residents, it is about the same size as New Hampshire.
New Hampshire generated $23.6 million in revenue from sports betting in 2020.