Hawaii Says ‘A’ole, Mahalo’ To Sports Betting Once Again

Written By Matthew Kredell on February 9, 2023
online legalization hawaii sports betting apps

Lawmakers still aren’t ready to give serious consideration to legalizing Hawaii sports betting.

The House Economic Development Committee swiftly killed sports betting legislation Wednesday by recommending HB 344 be deferred.

Committee chair Rep. Daniel Holt explained the body’s decision:

“I think maybe at some point this may be a worthy cause for us. But I think 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 I think at this point we’re going to be deferring this measure.”

Hawaii is resistant to gambling

Hawaii is one of only two states in the US with no form of legal gambling along with Utah. That’s a difficult barrier for sports betting to break through.

Rep. Elijah Pierick illustrated the viewpoint among many Hawaii lawmakers standing in the way of sports betting passage.

“Help us understand how sports wagering, as gambling, would not harm the poor. I believe that gambling is basically preying on the poor for sources of income. So help us understand, how you are going to protect the poor in this measure?”

Rebecca London of DraftKings tried to argue that the typical sports bettor comes from a higher-income bracket than those who play the lottery. But that argument doesn’t go very far in Hawaii, which doesn’t even have a lottery.

“As we like to say at DraftKings, it’s more fun when it’s for fun,” London said. “So [we make] sure that they’re using it as a form of entertainment. What we find is that the most sustainable consumer base is folks who are doing it in a responsible, fun way.”

Short Hawaii sports betting hearing before decision

The Hawaii sports betting hearing only lasted about 10 minutes.

Given the resistance to gambling in Hawaii, the state hasn’t generated that much interest from the industry.

Other than the DraftKings representative, the only other speaker was Pat Gibbs of the Sports Betting Alliance. Draftkings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Fanatics comprise the alliance.

Gibbs pointed out that many Hawaiians already are betting on offshore sites with no regulatory oversight or consumer protections. He added that 81% of these bettors are unaware the sites operate illegally.

He cited an Eilers & Krejcik study stating that Hawaii could see $6.8 million in annual tax revenue from regulated mobile sports betting at maturity. Gibbs also made sure lawmakers knew that 73% of Hawaii residents support legalizing and regulating online sports betting according to an Anthology Research poll.

Rep. John Mizuno showed optimism while introducing HB 344 but did not present his bill at the hearing.

Holt actually filed the first Hawaii sports betting bill in 2019 and advanced it through two committees. No Hawaii sports betting bill introduced since then has built on that progress.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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