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Sports betting simplified
For millions of people worldwide, Hawaii is a dream vacation destination. But for the major sports leagues, it is a place that lacks population, proximity to the continental United States, and a population with money. Certainly, there are rich folks in the Aloha State. But there is not enough of a thriving middle class to go with the rich. Hawaii has a high cost of living and high taxes. On the whole, it's not been a great priority for sports gambling. And the state is not showing interest in sports gambling as a potential industry in the state.
State of Hawaii Sports Betting Overview
Of all the states in the US, sports betting and gambling laws in Hawaii are some of the most strict. There isn’t even a state lottery or any tribal casinos; there are no lotteries, bingo, or charitable games of any kind. Given its unique location as an island state, there are no other options to bet nearby.
The move to legalize sports wagering in Hawaii is slow but has gained some attention from lawmakers. In January 2019, a House bill introduced sports betting and created a Hawaii sports wagering corporation. Unfortunately, it was not passed.
Hawaii has no major sports teams in the professional North American leagues, with NCAA teams being the closest to a major team. Through exports like sugar cane, pineapples, coffee, macadamia nuts, and flowers, the need to generate additional and possibly limited revenue from legalizing sports betting in Hawaii has not caught on.
State of Hawaii Sports Betting Timeline
On May 4, 2023, the 2023 Legislative Session ended without a sports betting bill passing. HB344 made some noise in the House but was defeated.
On Jan. 9, 2023, State Rep. John Mizuno introduced another bill to legalize sports betting and poker on Oahu. This attempt would create a standalone sportsbook and card room, unlike previous bills.
On Jan. 26, 2022, HB 1973 was brought forth in another attempt to legalize sports betting, specifying that “sports wagering shall not be considered games of chance or gambling.” It does not gain much support.
On Jan. 26, 2022, another bill (HB 1962) was introduced, this time in an attempt to legalize casino gambling. It fails along with the others.
On Jan. 24, 2022, a sports betting bill, HB 1815, was brought to the House legislature. The bill would administer and regulate online sports betting in the state but quickly died.
On Jan. 22, 2021, SB 595 was introduced to create a sports gambling task force to “examine the economic feasibility of implementing sports gaming in Hawaii.”
The bill dies at the committee level.
In 2020, SB 2571 and HB 1107, carried over from 2019, both died in their respective committees.
SB 2571 would have established a task force to examine how much money sports betting could bring to the state of Hawaii.
HB 1107 would have created the Hawaii Sports Wagering Corporation, which would have regulated and operated sports betting in the state. The process would have included a request for proposal, allowing companies to submit bids to operate sports betting in the state.
The Mizuno bill proposed establishing the Online Sports Wagering Corporation to regulate sports betting, adopt additional regulations, and select operators. Meanwhile, the Todd bill tasked the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to regulate and implement sports wagering.
HB 1815 was a step in the right direction for Hawaii sports betting proponents, but its 55% tax on all winnings paid to customers demonstrated that lawmakers still have some homework to do. A 55% tax on winnings would have been untenable had the bill passed into law.
On the other hand, the bill also demonstrated Hawaii lawmakers are aware that prohibition isn’t the answer. In its opening statement, HB 1815 explained that tens of thousands of Hawaiians are estimated to bet online with illegal offshore sportsbooks not subject to US regulations or taxes. Therefore, HB 1815 proposed legalizing and regulating online sports betting in Hawaii to protect consumers and collect tax revenue.
HB 1973 called for a more reasonable 10% tax on sports betting in Hawaii, but both bills died before making significant progress. Since then, lawmakers have introduced no additional bills to legalize Hawaii sportsbooks or betting sites.