Gambling On The Wrong Bill

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 17, 2010
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Things are rocking in the Square Building on South Beretania Street. Everyone who works there is looking for money. Some of the ideas are new, but some of them are as old as statehood.

For many years, the issue of same-sex marriage has aroused a clean-cut segment of our society. Over and over again legislators have used it as a way to transfer the public attention from more pressing topics of concern.

The only other issue that has the same ability to mobilize the electorate is gambling. Since same-sex marriage is dead for this year, the attention has focused on the boring issue of gambling. This bill has no chance of passing; however, it arouses the public. What makes it boring is the critics and advocates both for and against gambling use the same arguments for passage and denial.


The promotion of gambling is born when the economy goes sour. The myth is based on promises by gambling proponents that predict that it will bring in millions of new revenue to the state of Hawaii, create jobs and give a big boost to the tourist industry. The critics point out that there is strong and convincing evidence that the economic benefits of gambling are, at best, mythical. Exhibit “A” is the state of Nevada’s record, which leads the nation in divorces, bankruptcies and crime. It also is second in the U.S. for unemployment and suicides. One would think just that bit of information would make any legislator shy away from advocating for casino gambling as a political savior for all our economy woes.

Taxpayers can watch this take over the legislative agenda as the state House Judiciary Committee advances one bill that could lead to casinos on Hawaiian Home Lands, and another measure that would allow for the operation of one casino on Oahu. House Bill 2759 would authorize the state Department of Hawaiian Homes Lands to allow casinos on its property. Another measure, House Bill 2281, would allow for the creation of a gaming commission that would issue a single five-year license to a casino operator on Oahu.

Hopefully, our seasoned legislators will let these gambling bills die in committee. If they don’t, hopefully their hearings will not shift the attention from our budget deficit and how to protect the less fortunate community, their health and welfare and the education of the children. What we need here is a better focus on the real problem at hand and do something at the Legislature to make sure we don’t end up in this situation again in the future.

During an important election year, it would seem prudent for our elected officials to concentrate and be reasonable and forget the grandstanding to increase their name recognition.

Gambling is not a moral or religious issue, it is a criminal activity. The members of the law-enforcement industry all agree that gambling leads to crime and corruption. Why not listen to their plea and don’t drag us through the gambling discussion again - not just casino gambling, all types of gambling: lottery, horse racing, etc.

Some state legislators believe that supporting the gambling legislation will help them get re-elected or elected to a higher political office. They are wrong, even if they have another secret vote like they did with the same-sex legislation.

A gambling bill has about the same chance of becoming a law as a bill to bring the death penalty back to Hawaii.

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