Hawaii legislator Joe Mizuno is hoping to bring sports betting and gaming to Hawaii with a language centric, or more accurately, a language avoidant Bill, which makes no reference to casinos, slot machines, tax rates, fees or ownership criteria.
Mr Mizuno said of House Bill 344: “When you use the word ‘casino,’ sometimes it can be like yelling ‘fire’ in a theater, so in talking with some proponents, we crafted the language very intentionally to leave things open.”
Hawaii is currently one of only two states in the US that does not offer any legal gambling options.
Mr. Mizuno’s penchant for ambiguity is understandable given the unsuccessful history of previous enabling bills.
In 2022, Mizuno introduced House Bill 1815 to the House legislature which sought to administer and regulate sports betting in the state. H.B. 1815 highlighted the large numbers of Hawaii residents participating in illegal online sports gambling on unregulated internet websites. This bill also identified the millions of dollars in revenue offshore operators serving Hawaii residents were receiving despite the state itself not realising any benefits. House Bill 1815 died.
Mizuno is admittedly ‘cautiously optimistic’ about this new stripped-down approach. Unlike previous attempts, this bill would create a standalone sportsbook and card room that would provide residents with a domestic alternative. He said: “If we can contain maybe 25 per cent of that with sports betting it could help prevent raising taxes. We could use it for housing, domestic violence, homelessness, a number of things.”
Since the government struck down the federal-ban on single-game wagering in 2018, almost 80 per cent of US states have either legalised sports betting or introduced legislation to do so. It does not appear that any state that has successfully passed an enabling act has had to obfuscate in this way. Mizuno’s cherry-picking of the terminology included in H.B. 344 is a radical attempt to avoid the prejudice towards sports betting enabling acts.