Vegas From A Hawaii Point Of View

Rick Hamada
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Wednesday - October 12, 2005

LAS VEGAS - OC16’s premier television program, Living Local with the Baraquios, is shooting a special episode of Living Local, Las Vegas, which airs later this year. My pronouncement of Living Local as the premier show not only on OC16, but on television itself, is completely objective, unbiased and bereft of any favoritism. The fact that my beautiful wife, Bernadette, is the creator, executive producer, writer, sales executive and host of Living Local has absolutely no influence on my review. Now, let me take my tongue out of my cheek and get to the business of Las Vegas.


This is Sin City and, for us sinners, it’s the ultimate playground. “What happens is Vegas, stays in Vegas” is the mantra for those looking for an Ecclesiastical white-out for what is said and done. As if people inclined to behave badly needed a slogan.

The obvious things first. It’s been about seven years since my last visit. Unbelievable explosion of growth. Not only the megaplexes shoulder-to-shoulder on The Strip, but the roads and homes which seemingly have doubled over time. The density of the place is dramatic.

The omnipresence of gambling is like a buffet where you eat so much you end up getting sick. Slot machines to Vegas are like cell phones to Hawaii: There’s one everywhere you go whether you like it or not. I mean, walking into Longs here and playing a Red, White and Blue dollar machine is somewhat surreal. I’ll take a bag of mochi, some Q-Tips and one last pull on the slots. A collision of worlds.

Is casino gambling for Hawaii? I was a staunch opponent of the idea when it was being discussed in the ‘90s for Ko ‘Olina. The main selling point for gambling was to generate money for the state at a time when the coffers were bare. I maintained then, and I maintain today, that our state does not lack funds. If there are financial challenges, the state needs to work more efficiently and, in some cases, completely retool its way of doing business to achieve cost efficiency. Although we are not in the dire straits of the ‘90s, this is still the standard government to which government must be held accountable.

I understand the argument against gambling and I support many of the concerns. I believe criminal elements may find a stronger foothold. Loan sharking, prostitution and the drug business could find more opportunity. Does that mean I am pro-crime? Certainly not, however, I don’t believe that a policy’s determining factor should focus solely on what the detrimental effects could be. If that were the case, we would suffer from societal paralysis.

Of course, there are some who would not be able to handle it if gambling were legal in Hawaii. But we have people who can’t handle alcohol, food, driving, etc. What about those who can and who desire the option to gamble in Hawaii?

The debate surrounding the Akaka Bill, which opponents claim would allow Native Hawaiians to operate casinos like Native Americans, re-introduced gambling as a top-of-mind issue. Although proponents of the Akaka Bill vehemently declare gambling is not an option under Akaka, the issue of gambling in Hawaii should be settled.

Do you support legalized gambling in Hawaii?


This is a question that should appear on a referendum, but we don’t have that choice in Hawaii. The next best thing would be an amendment to the state Constitution. Put it to a vote and let the public decide at the ballot box.

Food: Decadent, gluttonous, abundant, cheap. I spoke to some folks on the flight over and it wasn’t the gambling or the shows they were looking forward to the most. It was the oxtail soup at the California. Go figure.

The shows here are spectacular. We took in We Will Rock You at the Paris. This was a huge hit in Britain and is based on the music by Queen. It had been years since I saw such a tremendously produced and entertaining show. There are headliners everywhere in Vegas, from Elton John to Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight to Barry Manilow. It would take more than just a few days to truly experience the totality of entertainment here. It would also take more than a couple of dollars, too. Decent seats command up to and more than $100. There are some more reasonably priced shows. It just depends on what melts your butter, trips your trigger or flips your switch. It’s all here.

There are tens of thousands of expatriated locals living here. I can see why. Economics, lifestyle and opportunity. Compelling reasons to make the move. But when you talk to transplanted locals here, you can see it in their eyes when they talk about the islands. An understandable wistfulness comes over them. It’s as if they are back in Ewa or Kahului or Lihue. Although they are living in the present, it’s as if they would prefer to live in the past.

I think it’s safe to say that Dorothy got it right. There’s no place like home. And home is Hawaii.

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