Hawaii’s House Economic Development Committee has turned down the chance to launch the island’s first casino via a project from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) that would have seen a resort-casino built in Kapolei.
Sean Quinlan, Chairman of the Committee, shelved the proposal until the next legislative session in 2022, saying: “Every two years we swear an oath on the state constitution and every two years we fail to follow up on that oath with the money Hawaiians are owed.”
The DHHL had said that given the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s economy, the department needed a ‘bold measure’ to generate ‘critically needed revenue to improve the lives of their people.’
Neither House Speaker Scott Saiki nor Senate President Ron Kouchi supported the suggestion of a casino.
DHHL Director William Aila said: “I am proud of Deputy Gomes and the DHHL staff for their efforts in bringing forth such a bold and innovative idea to address the devastating budget shortfall that this Department faces year after year. While the committee’s deferral of HB 359 was not an ideal outcome, we look forward to the future with hope. The accompanying Senate bill will be heard next week, and we thank the legislature across the board for allowing this conversation to come to the table. As we have previously commented, there are currently no other proposals to this scale that would close the gap of our funding shortfalls.”
“We acknowledge the social concerns brought up in the newly issued report, ‘Gambling With Women’s Safety: A Feminist Assessment of DHHL Proposed Resort Casino.’ It is no secret that illegal gaming is already a reality in our communities and that there are related social ills already in existence,” he added. “The Chair and I believe that gaming can be responsibly implemented in Hawaiʻi through a regulatory process that sets aside resources to aid in the mitigation of the potential impacts. These resources can fund similar public safety measures and best practices that have already been developed and administered by countries like Japan, Singapore, and New Zealand. DHHL’s proposal was written with social responsibility in mind and includes specific funding sources that would help alleviate negative social impacts.”