Hawaii is nothing short of paradise, but its natural beauty is rivaled by its hostility to gambling. All forms of gambling, including online casinos, are illegal. That has been the case since its entrance into the US in 1959. Before that, there were some horse racing options, but these had fizzled out by the time statehood came to the islands.
However, the pandemic created a problem for the Aloha State. In 2020, visitor counts declined by more than 75% from 2019. In a state so dependent on tourism dollars, the decline is disastrous for its economy. So, it’s no surprise that the idea of gambling (if not online gambling) is floating around various stakeholders in Hawaii.
Although there’s not much to tell in the tale of Hawaii gambling, we at PlayUSA have all the latest information about it. Read on for all the most recent news and details about gambling in Hawaii.
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Are online casinos legal in Hawaii?
Absolutely not. Hawaiian law expressly forbids gambling and cites the activity as a misdemeanor in the existing statutes. Any online casino site that tells you otherwise is not a trustworthy place to be.
Sweepstakes and Social Casinos
The only options that may offer similar types of games are social and sweepstakes casinos. Sweepstakes are permitted by Hawaiian law so long as the site gives away all of its prizes and doesn’t cost anything to play. Sweepstakes and social sites like Chumba Casino, Luckyland Slots, and Funzpoints all use a dual currency system to maintain the separation from chips you buy and chips that pay. Each site offers many different slot options, and you can also find a limited selection of table games, too. Keep in mind Chumba Casino and Luckyland Slots are online social casino sites while Funzpoints is a sweepstsakes site.
Hawaii online casino & gambling news
- Jan. 30, 2024 – Sen. Ronald Kouchi has submitted a bill, SB 3376, to the Hawaii Senate to legalize online sports betting and poker.
- Feb. 9, 2023 – Sports betting bill HB 344 was deferred by Hawaii’s House Economic Development Committee, keeping the state free from any form of legal gambling
- Jan. 21, 2023 – A new gambling bill introduced in Hawaii aims to prevent the island from becoming a mini Las Vegas by prohibiting advertising from Nevada gaming companies and imposing fines for violations.
Can you gamble online in Hawaii?
No. There is no legal online gambling in Hawaii.
Few states are more cut and dried in their prohibition of gambling. Now, for its part, Hawaii’s gambling law is similar to statutes in other states. The Hawaii Revised Statute §712-1223 states the following:
“A person commits the offense of gambling if the person knowingly advances or participates in any gambling activity.”
Many states start from this position and then designate exceptions to or exemptions from the law. What makes Hawaii so stringent is that its exception is for social gaming and sweepstakes sites, and even those games are heavily limited. There is no lottery, no bingo, and certainly no casino gaming, online or otherwise, in the state.
One way to deal with the prohibition, however, is through the use of sweepstakes sites. Sweepstakes are legal under Hawaiian law, albeit with razor-thin definitions of what makes them acceptable. So, you might be able to find some gaming options with sites that take pains to remain classified as sweepstakes, not online casinos.
Does Hawaii have legal online sportsbooks?
Nope. By now, you should have detected a theme in our answers about Hawaii and online gambling. Like every other type of gambling, betting on sports in Hawaii is not legal in any way, shape, or form. There are no legal online sportsbooks to be found, and beware of anyone who says that there are.
Can you play online poker in Hawaii?
No. Not to sound like a broken record, but as is the case with every other type of gambling, you cannot play real money online poker in Hawaii. There are no legal online poker sites in Hawaii, and any statements to the contrary are either profound mistakes or outright lies.
As usual, your only hope of playing any type of online poker in Hawaii comes through sweepstakes sites. Global Poker is the top sweepstakes poker site available, and you can play for real money prizes for free onsite. Truthfully, Global is not a bad option to have, but if you’re in Hawaii, beggars can’t be choosers.
Who regulates online gambling in Hawaii?
Broadly speaking, the state government regulates online gambling in Hawaii. There is no particular agency within the government to handle gambling in Hawaii because there is no gambling in Hawaii. As soon as gambling comes to Hawaii, the answer will be much clearer. But, there’s no reason for a regulator if there’s nothing to regulate.
What is the legal gambling age in Hawaii?
18, if you want to call it that. Strictly speaking, there is no gambling age in Hawaii, because you have to have gambling in order to have a gambling age. The only clue we get is the notion that everyone must be the “age of majority” to play in a home poker game. Hawaii law defines 18 as the age of majority.
Will Hawaii regulate online gambling in the future?
If you asked this question prior to 2020, the answer would have been an unequivocal no. Hawaii has been steadfast in its opposition to gambling since its inclusion as a state in 1959.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic created a new sense of reality around the world, with people avoiding large gatherings and travel as much as they can. The tropical island state is a top destination for many Americans and other people around the world. In a normal year, more than 10 million people can travel to the Aloha State.
For a state that relies on tourism as heavily as Hawaii, these activities are anathema to the state budget. So, lawmakers in the Aloha State might be inspired to look at online gambling with new eyes.
But even in the face of a growing budget concern, lawmakers are mostly unwilling even to consider opening up for limited casino play. It would be foolhardy to expect that anything is in the wings for online gambling in Hawaii, but it is also a curiosity to see how the state legislature copes with growing deficits.
In short, gambling online in Hawaii is almost certainly never going to happen, but we cannot rule it out completely anymore.
Legal online gambling vs. offshore sites
Oddly enough, Hawaii’s absolute stance on legal gambling makes it easy to determine if you’re dealing with a foreign or unregulated site. If you find an online casino that offers service to Hawaiians, it’s foreign or unregulated, pure and simple.
However, many of these sites look quite legitimate. They seem enticing and on the up-and-up. Truth be told, many of them are, for the most part. Thousands of Americans play on them without incident each and every day. So, you may be wondering what the problem is.
The big concerns stem from the fact that these sites are not bound by any local, state, or federal law in the US. Although it can be a thrill to flaunt the rules, the reality is that most laws are there to protect you. A gambling site based outside the US does not have any duty to respond to US law enforcement or business standards. If you were to have some sort of dispute or need for assistance, your options could be unacceptably limited to get any kind of satisfaction.
You also cannot verify the security situation on these sites. You are submitting your personal and private information to them, including your banking details and identity. Even if the sites themselves are honest, they are not necessarily equipped to deal with hacking or other security threats the way that regulatory authorities in the US demand legal sites to be.
So, misdemeanor aside, it’s really not a good idea to take up offers for online gambling in Hawaii at this time. A fine and some court trouble might be the least of your worries.
Are there retail casinos in Hawaii?
Not a one. In keeping with its “all gambling is bad” motif, there are no casinos of any kind in Hawaii. There are no racetracks, no off-track betting facilities, and no lottery terminals in the convenience stores. In Hawaii, it’s time to hit the beach, because you’re sure not hitting the felt.
Hawaii Poker Laws
The only glimmer of hope for gambling in Hawaii exists in poker. Although poker is not explicitly given to be legal, we can deduce its availability in the state by subtraction from other laws surrounding gambling. In other words, we know that we can play poker in Hawaii under certain conditions because we know we cannot do anything else.
The lone exception and defense to prosecution for gambling in Hawaii exists for home poker games. As long as you are playing the game inside your home and you don’t charge for — literally — anything, it’s acceptable. The law specifically refers to it as “social gambling.” This exception has been on the books in the Aloha State since 1973, which makes determining the reasoning behind the legalization difficult. However, there has been no successful challenge to the exception in the ensuing decades, so presumably, life has not fallen apart in Hawaii because of home poker games.
Like the case for sports betting and casino gambling, 2020 has inspired Hawaii lawmakers to attempt some unusual strategies to raise revenue. One of those ideas came from HB383, which called for establishing a State Poker Commission to oversee live poker in the state. In the scope of poker expansion, the bill is a modest proposal, but unsurprisingly, it was tabled in committee in February 2021. In fact, the tabling occurred on the same day as a similar result for sports betting and casino bills. So, for now, Hawaii poker is to be played at home or not at all.
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History of Gambling in Hawaii
It wasn’t always like this in Hawaii. In fact, Hawaii had a healthy horse racing industry for many years prior to 1959. King David Kalakaua founded the Hawaiian Jockey Club in 1872, and horse racing continued to be popular on the islands (particularly Oahu) for 80 years. However, everything legal closed down when the territory became part of the US.
Of course, making something illegal does not mean that it does not occur. Illegal betting continues in Hawaii to this day. News of raids on game rooms and other gambling establishments continue to pop up every few months. In fact, the American Gaming Association estimates that 276,000 Hawaiians make up to $669 million in illicit bets each year.
Should the legislature in Hawaii ever make moves to legalize online gambling or gambling in general, the state could benefit financially.