Tuesday, March 30, 1999

State of Hawaii

Horse races take
all bets off
sports complex

By Pat Omandam


The Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is opposing a Senate resolution that urges the state to develop a multipurpose sports complex because one of the sports it could be used for is horse racing.

Dorothy I. Cornell of First Christian Church, a member of the anti-gambling coalition, told the Senate Economic Development Committee yesterday that the idea of a sports complex -- which could help economic development -- is overshadowed by its possible use for horse racing.

"It is difficult to make a line-item critique of this resolution because it isn't really calling for a sports complex, but for an opportunity to have year-round parimutuel machines for the purpose of extracting money away from the local economy," Cornell said.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 206 urges the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and the Department of Land and Natural Resources to identify state land on Oahu between 500 and 1,000 acres to begin plans for a sports complex.

The complex would provide equal opportunity to all sports such as football, tennis, track, wrestling, martial arts, polo, auto racing and horse racing. The state currently has plans for a sports complex in Kapolei, but the focus is on baseball.

The committee yesterday passed the resolution with the horse-racing language intact. The measure now goes to Ways and Means for a hearing.

Jason Iwai, Hawaiian Jockey Club president, said horse racing is the "sport of kings" and is the oldest form of recreational sport and exists in 125 countries. In the United States, it is legal in 44 states, he said.

Legislative resolutions express the position of lawmakers but they do not have the force of a law. Nevertheless, opponents of gambling wasted no time in responding to the measure.

Honolulu Police Capt. Thomas Nitta, acting major of the Narcotics/Vice Division, said horse-racing and parimutuel betting go hand-in-hand.

Said Nitta: "Allowing this wording is a 'foot through the back door.' "

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