Hawaii has wonderful weather, spectacular sightseeing and bountiful beaches. But one thing Hawaii does not have is legal gambling. That means no sports betting, either, although Hawaii lawmakers have explored the possibility.
Alas, recent efforts to introduce sports betting legislation have not met with much enthusiasm. That said, it remains possible Hawaii could introduce sports betting in the future.
If it did, it is likely online sports betting would be an option, perhaps even the only option, as it is in Tennessee. That’s because without any other forms of gambling on the islands, the lack of established retail locations could encourage lawmakers to explore the mobile option for sports betting.
Here is an overview of gambling in Hawaii (or the lack thereof) and the prospects for sports betting eventually finding its way to the Aloha State.
Along with Utah, Hawaii is one of two states in the US with absolutely no legal gambling.
Hawaii officially became the 50th state in 1959. Gambling was never legal, but in 1972 a statute was added to state law that specifically criminalized gambling.
There are no casinos, no sportsbooks, no poker rooms, no racetracks and no state lottery in Hawaii. You cannot gamble on cruise ships parked on coasts around the islands. There is no tribal gambling, either.
In fact, Hawaii specifically outlaws daily fantasy sports, too. In early 2016, then Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin wrote an opinion declaring DFS illegal under state law. Thus sites like DraftKings and FanDuel do not serve players in Hawaii.
Some forms of “social gambling” are allowed in Hawaii. That essentially means small “home games” that cannot take place at commercial establishments and where the games are fair to all and no one takes a fee.
Over the decades there have been attempts by state lawmakers to introduce gambling legislation, but none has succeeded.
Probably the most notable of these attempts was a House bill proposed in 2010 that would have amended the state’s constitution to legalize casinos. However the bill never made it out of committee. Later efforts to legalize online gambling met with a similar fate.
In 2018 a ruling by the US Supreme Court did away with the federal prohibition against states other than Nevada offering sports betting. The following year lawmakers in both the Hawaii House and Senate introduced sports betting-related bills.
The bills went nowhere in 2019. But both of them were carried over into the 2020 legislative session.
One of the bills would create a task force “to examine and make recommendations on the economic feasibility of implementing sports gambling in Hawaii.” The bill had multiple sponsors and was referred to multiple committees, but proceeded no further.
The other bill proposed creating a regulatory body called the Hawaii Sports Wagering Corp. The bill would authorize the corporation to “offer a regulated, secure and responsible framework for the conduct of sports wagering in Hawaii.”
The bill would also revise existing statutes to legalize sports betting and charge the regulating body to create rules, issue licenses and ensure the integrity of the new US sports betting market. That bill also had a number of lawmakers sponsoring it, though it also failed to make it out of any committees.
It is safe to assume state lawmakers will continue to discuss sports betting going forward. However, there is no great push at present to pass such legislation.
Given the time required to finalize rules, issue licenses and complete other administrative necessities, even if sports betting were to be legalized quickly, it likely could not go live until 2022 at the earliest.
In truth, that would be a very optimistic timeline. In fact, recent legislation has included a proposal to create a task force to study sports betting before moving ahead to legalize it. That would add another year at least to the process of sports betting becoming legal in Hawaii.
Given that there are no casinos or other venues in the state offering legal betting of any kind, it is hard to say where exactly retail sportsbooks could find a home in Hawaii.
As mentioned above, the situation somewhat resembles Tennessee, a state without any casinos that now has legal sports betting. In Tennessee, lawmakers opted to make sports betting an entirely online endeavor. The same might be a possibility in Hawaii should the state entertain legalizing sports betting.
None at present. As noted above, all forms of gambling are illegal in the state, including sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
You might see offshore sportsbooks that operate online claiming to be “legal” in Hawaii. These sites are not licensed either in Hawaii or the United States. Thus those who place wagers on them have no recourse should the site fail to pay out winnings or close accounts and make off with bettors’ funds.
If you’re looking for silver linings, here is one. Hawaii has no sports betting, but it doesn’t have any professional sports franchises on which fans might have wanted to place wagers.
The state has one football team competing at the NCAA Division I FBS level, the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
The school also has an NCAA Division I men’s basketball team. The schools’ women’s teams are the Rainbow Wāhine.
Not only are there no racetracks in Hawaii, you cannot go online and bet on horse racing, either. That’s against the law, too. Therefore, advance wagering deposit sites like BetAmerica, TVG and TwinSpires cannot serve Hawaii bettors.
There is no legal sports betting in Hawaii. When it comes to “social gambling,” those who participate must be at least 18 years old (the “age of majority” in Hawaii).
The House bill introduced in 2020 that would have legalized sports betting proposed creating a regulatory body called the Hawaii Sports Wagering Corp. That bill failed, but presumably, if sports betting became legal, the state would install a similar group to oversee it.