Hawaii is well-known to be a fun, gorgeous, and relaxing state in which to live and visit. That, in fact, would actually be an understatement. However, the fun and relaxation do not include gambling, at least not in the traditional sense. Unlike other states that have conservative values and standards with respect to being anti-gambling, representatives and anti-gambling supporters do not oppose gambling because of religious principles, such as those in the Southern U.S., but rather oppose it because it is thought to endanger people, especially the vulnerable from losing their hard earned money. Hawaii’s stance against gambling is more about protecting the welfare of its residents than following religious (Christian) principles. Longtime but now-deceased Hawaiian U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye once stated that “The worst thing we could hope to do for the state of Hawaii is to have gaming here.” Those strong words reflect the extent of opposition against gambling in the state.
Social gambling is the only legal gambling in the state. In order for social gambling to be legal, however, participants cannot play in a hotel or motel, a bar, nightclub or any other public place, especially if said public place is one in which alcohol is served and is the principal commodity provided for consumption. Any other form of gambling, nonetheless, is illegal and constitutes a misdemeanor. Interestingly, Hawaii is a state that has had a rich and fun history of horse racing and associated gambling even though it has been underground. As a result it seems as if there is a considerable group within the state’s population that is interested in gambling but perhaps does not have the political clout to successfully advocate for gambling’s legalization.
Regarding online gambling, the short answer is that it is illegal. However, the more nuanced answer is that it is still very much untested waters. Hawaii has yet to take a stance by enacting legislation prohibiting online gambling. However Hawaiians still engage in online gambling by playing poker, for instance, on gambling sites that are legal because they are regulated by government agencies albeit from other countries.
Recent Changes in the Law
Today, all states in the country except Utah and Hawaii permit at least some type of legal gambling. That, however, may soon change since there seems to be a growing populist movement to legalize gambling in the state. In 2010, legislators attempted to bring a casino to Hawaii. Although some may argue that gambling can lead to addiction, legislators were more concerned with permitting gambling so as to increase tax revenue to pay for public goods such as social services and parks, especially important things considering the still fledgling national economy. Unfortunately for gambling advocates though, the 2010 bill stalled. There is still a considerable amount of continuous desire for a casino or at least some options for gambling.
Despite the 2010 defeat to have a casino permitted in the state, there were two gaming measures from 2013. Senate Bills 767 and 769 would respectively permit gaming on vessels in state waters as well as provide a 20-year license for a casino in Waikiki. These measures indicate that while there is still an entrenched anti-gambling mentality throughout the state, especially among those in the legislature, things are ultimately changing.