Hawaii has become the latest state to join the pack when it comes to state-level efforts to legalize online gambling, as lawmakers re-submit a bill that did not pass in 2012.
What makes Hawaii’s situation rather special among all the states is that gambling as such has been completely illegal there. Unlike Nevada, New Jersey or other states whereby the push to legislate online gaming activities is based on some brick-and-mortar casino history (or an existing lottery system), the pacific state’s online gambling industry would exist without the backing of any land-based establishments.
Apparently this is perceived by lawmakers as being more of a blessing than a handicap, as any regulation coming into effect would not need to deal with the relationship between the traditional establishments and online operators.
The proposal being advanced now would make Hawaiians one of the lucky few to have the right to play online poker in US.
Naturally, the lawmakers recognize the fact that the states residents are already involved in online gambling en masse, which is why the bills declared intent is “to protect” those who wager online, and of course to “capture revenues generated from internet gambling.”
According to the explanation attached to the proposal, “it is in the best interest of the state and its citizens to regulate this existing activity by authorizing and implementing a secure, responsible, and legal system for internet gambling.”
In addition to Internet poker, the bill would also permit lotteries and other casino games. Sports betting would still be prohibited, since betting on sports in the US is strictly regulated by federal law.
All of the games would require the involvement of the Hawaii Internet Lottery and Gaming Corporation, to be established following passage of the law. This body would then pick the online gambling operator, which would provide the actual service in return for a yet undefined share of the profits.
The bulk of the money, however, would go towards funding some of Hawaii’s various education expenses as well as problem gambling prevention initiatives.
Only those operators with a clean record would be eligible to apply. Any company that has accepted American players over the past few years in conflict with the US gambling laws, or has been “indicted or convicted of a crime related to its gaming operations” would not qualify.
Akin to the Nevada proposal, Hawaii would also seek to conclude agreements with those states where online gambling is legal. Anyone 18 or older would be allowed to play, but those using any of the gambling operators and sites not licensed in Hawaii would be committing a crime.
Finally, the proposed bill seems to indicate the possibility of annual poker tournaments, when it allows an online site to organize “no more than two land-based gaming entertainment events annually, related to the corporation’s internet game offerings, for the purpose of attracting tourists to Hawaii.”
Should the bill pass, Utah would remain the only state in the US where proposals of legalized gambling remain completely off the table.