The Hawaiian Homes Commission has approved a draft Legislative proposal that would allow limited casino gaming in the form of a single integrated resort property in Kapolei on Oʻahu.
In a 5-4 vote on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, the Commission approved the item, which would authorize limited gaming on a single property on Hawaiian Home Lands designated for commercial use.
Those opposed to the measure include Maui and Molokaʻi commissioners Randy Awo and Zachary Helm, as well as West Hawaiʻi commissioner David Kaʻapu and Patricia Teruya of Oʻahu.
Commissioners Michael Kaleikini (East Hawaiʻi), Russell Kaʻupu (Oʻahu), Pauline Namuʻo (Oʻahu), Dennis Neves (Kauaʻi), and HHC Chair William J. Ailā all voted yes.
Opponents say the project shifts the focus away from creating homestead opportunities; while supporters say it provides an economic solution to create adequate funding for the department.
“With the Commission’s decision today, we are hopeful that the Hawaiʻi State Legislature will see the urgency of finally addressing the funding shortages of this program,” said Deputy Tyler Iokepa Gomes. “The measure the Department is proposing is bold but we’re at a pivotal point where bold action is necessary to fulfill the responsibility of the trust. We hear the pleas of beneficiaries across the board including the need for swift action to move beneficiaries off the Waiting List and onto homestead lots. This effort does not shift DHHL’s focus from creating homestead opportunities, instead, it provides a way forward in terms of an economic solution to face the common denominator for the struggles faced by the Department – the opportunity to create adequate funding.”
The draft Legislative proposal, upon submission, will be reviewed by the Department of the Attorney General, the Department of Budget & Finance, and Governor David Ige for consideration in his Legislative packet. Should the Governor include the proposed measure in his packet, the draft Legislation would then proceed to be considered by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature. If the Governor chooses not to include it in his packet, the Department may seek a Legislator to introduce the proposal.
Supporter say revenues from this initiative would be used to address DHHL’s “dire financial state” by ensuring the Department is the primary beneficiary of the gaming operation through a land lease agreement with the licensee and direct collection of 80 percent of the proposed state tax on gross gaming revenue.
DHHL’s proposal establishes a Hawaiʻi Gaming Commission, along with details that structure the gaming license application, fees, and criteria for awarding a license. A wagering tax on gross gaming revenue and a State gaming fund, along with other appropriate funds, are also established.
The proposed State Gaming Fund is expected to invest in initiatives to address possible increases in crime, gambling addiction, and other social issues, as well as provide for public security, job training, traffic improvements, and the administrative expenses of the new Gaming Commission.