Thursday, February 7, 2002

Gambling issue
still dramatically
splits likely voters

Supporters appear
to have lost the majority
they enjoyed last year

Consultant: Issue won't die

By Pat Omandam

As director of a medical clinic at the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki, Dr. John R. Magauran believes what is needed to cure this ailing post-Sept. 11 Hawaii economy is a limited dose of casino gambling.

Art "We believe that most people here do support gambling," Magauran said.

"And if it's done in a controlled and regulated way, it's something that can benefit everybody within the community," said Magauran, a member of the Holomua Hawaii coalition, which supports two casino sites on Oahu.

A new Honolulu Star-Bulletin/KITV-4 poll shows the issue of gambling continues to split the state. The telephone survey showed 47 percent of Hawaii residents oppose any form of gambling, while 49 percent said they might or would support some form of it. Another 3 percent said they were undecided.

The poll was taken between Jan. 26 and Feb. 3 of 601 persons statewide who said they were likely to vote. It was conducted by Market Trends Pacific Inc. and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

A similar poll a year ago showed 40 percent of respondents opposed gambling, while 59 percent said they might or would support some form of it.

The poll results mean the gambling issue will likely remain a hot topic for state lawmakers this session. (A hearing on a gambling study is expected next week.) But with no clear-cut mandate from the people, the Legislature is not likely to change Hawaii's status as one of only three states that does not allow any form of gambling.

"We know it's out there," Bill Paty, former chief executive officer of Waialua Sugar Co., said of the gambling supporters he and other businessmen are trying to defeat.

"They're going to be back. They're well funded. And if you think this is the end of this, you're sadly mistaken," he said.

The new poll shows the most opposition to gambling is from those age 60 and older, while those under age 45 gave the most support for it. By gender, 54 percent of females polled were against gambling compared with 39 percent of males.

As for ethnicity, respondents of Filipino ancestry were most opposed to gambling, while those with Hawaiian ancestry had the most support for it.

Meanwhile, of the 294 polled who said they might or would support gambling, 32 percent favored a lottery, 17 percent shipboard casinos, 8 percent one state-sanctioned resort casino and 7 percent multiresort casinos. Another 28 percent favored all of these types. The margin of error in this poll question is 5.7 percentage points.

Casino consultant
predicts issue won’t die

Some local business leaders say
the costs of gambling are high

By Pat Omandam

A national gambling industry expert, university professor and author says the debate over gambling in Hawaii is just beginning and that residents should brace for a long-term fight.

"The notion of casinos will always be here," said William N. Thompson, an author and a consultant for casino companies, governments and American Indian tribes.

"This is maybe a critical year. If it is solidly defeated this year, you've probably put it off for four or five years. But the notion always comes back," he said yesterday.

Thompson was guest speaker of a group of Hawaii businessmen who have banded together for a lengthy fight over commercial gambling in Hawaii.

The group also opposes any ballot referendum that allows voters to decide whether to have gambling here.

Mitch D'Olier, chief executive officer of Victoria Ward Ltd., said the cost and expense that must be borne by the economy because of gambling will exceed the revenue benefits to it. He is especially concerned about the impact on local shops and restaurants that may lose business traffic to casinos.

"We live in probably the most spiritually beautiful place on Earth," D'Olier said.

"And our state has a brand name that's magnificent and wonderful and holds people in other states in awe. I think casino gambling in our state would tarnish our brand name," he said.

Rodney Shinkawa, Hawaii Bankers Association executive director, said he worries gambling will push consumers into debt, which may ultimately lead to a rise in foreclosures and bankruptcies. And the promise gambling will bring in thousands of new jobs is really just a tradeoff, said Jack Hoag, former president and a director at First Hawaiian Bank.

"The gambling industry comes in here and shows us their supposed revenues. But they say nothing about the liability side of the balance sheet," Hoag said.

Gambling proponents announced earlier this week that they have gathered 25,000 signatures in a petition to show legislators there is a silent majority who support some form of gambling here, and nearly half of Hawaii residents make Las Vegas trips.

But John Monahan, former president of Liberty House who once ran a department store on the Las Vegas strip, said people will not stop going there even if gambling is allowed in Hawaii.

Moreover, he said, it would change the reason why 6 million people visit Hawaii.

"To come now and say gambling is the way we're going to revitalize the economy and improve our schools, I say that's nuts. It won't wash," said Bill Paty, former chief executive officer of Waialua Sugar Co.

"We don't need gambling."

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