Hopes of Hawaii legalized sports betting quickly drifting

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Hawaii’s House Committee met to discuss Rep. John Mizuno’s Bill H.B. No. 344  and have subsequently deferred the bill, dashing hopes of legalized sports betting in Hawaii in the short to medium term. The deferral of the bill means Committee Chair Rep. Daniel Holt has the chance to recall it to committee at a later date, or as is a much more common occurrence, leave it in committee to perish.

Although on first announcement, it appeared that Committee Chair Rep. Holt was in support of the bill, it appears as though it was more to attempt to curb Hawaii’s black market cardrooms, rather than the tax revenue potentially generated by legalized sports betting. The proposal, under 344 was to have few legal parlors where bettors could play legal poker and also legally wager on sports events.

The bill did not mention slot machines, casino, license numbers, fees or other criteria that have been included in the other six bills over three years that have all been dismissed in the Hawaii House. At the hearing, DraftKings and a sports betting lobbying group both presented but the House Committee on Economic Development seemed unswayed by the arguments presented.

What would be the economic benefits to Hawaii?

Pat Gibbs, the Sports Betting Alliance Counsel argued that legalized sports betting and the passing of bill H.B. 344 could raise $6.7 million annually for the state by way of tax revenue, also adding that an estimated 276,000 bet offshore each year.

Committee Chair Rep. Daniel Holt stated: “I think maybe, at some point, this may be a worthy cause for us but at this point, $7 million a year may not be worth putting our communities at risk. There may be other opportunities in the future, but at this point we’re going to be deferring this measure.”

Hawaii is one of few states where there is little to no legalized betting. The start of the year and reopening of legislative sessions tends to see bills emerge seeking legalization of some form of gambling in all states where it’s not legal in multiple forms. The most notable for commercial operators and lobbyists remain sports betting in California, online sports betting in Texas and also betting on sports in Oklahoma and Florida.

Analysts suggest the aforementioned states have the potential highest total addressable market across the US, and believe the likes of California and Texas could compete with New York for tax revenue and receipts from legalized online sports betting. Not only is there friction with the public, but the complicated relationship between Native American tribes and commercial entities and interests pose additional hurdles to legalization in these states.