Gaming no stimulus for Hawaii economy


POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

As it has in the past, this year's Legislature has properly ignored calls for allowing commercial gambling in Hawaii. The notion that casinos could stimulate the state's economy is absurd, while the tourism industry recognizes that it could strip the islands from their lure as a family getaway.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, a gambling proponent, maintains that it would bring increased revenue to Hawaii by providing more recreational opportunities for tourists. But the tourism industry has opposed legalized gambling in Hawaii for decades for good reason.

“;In the long term, it is going to be socially and economically destructive,”; John W. Kindt, a University of Illinois business professor, said this week in lobbying on behalf of the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

How about the short term? Georgina Kawamura, the state budget and finance director, pointed out last month that a state-regulated gambling program would take up to two years to launch and would require the state to hire more staff to administer.

As revenue in Nevada has illustrated, gambling also is vulnerable in the kind of economy the nation is experiencing. That state's casinos had their worst-ever decline in gross revenue last year, down nearly 10 percent from 2007. Last year's fourth quarter was worse, down nearly 19 percent.

Polls during the 1990s showed that a majority of Hawaii residents understand the negative consequences and oppose its legalization. In 2001, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal to allow a single casino in Ko Olina was rejected by legislators. A bill two years ago to allow casino gambling to help pay for rapid transit also was cast aside. At some point, its advocates should tire of throwing the dice.