Ko OlinaSupporters will start a public campaign tomorrow to focus attention on the benefits of using taxes generated from gambling for college scholarships.
casino plan before
A coalition proposes using taxes
from casinos to pay for
By Richard Borreca
Jim Boersema, spokesman for Sun International Hotels Ltd., said newspaper ads start tomorrow for the Coalition for Economic Diversity, formed to push for gambling in Hawaii.
Sun International operates resort hotels and casinos in the Bahamas and Atlantic City, N.J. It recently hosted Gov. Ben Cayetano at their Bahamas resort, Atlantis, site of the world's largest aquarium.
Cayetano said yesterday he didn't like unlimited casino gambling in Hawaii but was interested in Sun's proposal to limit gambling to a specific site.
A proposal to allow an exclusive use of gambling on a designated piece of property is something "I would be open to," he said. "I'm not sure if it is possible that I could support it.
"First, I would have to see what the state would get for its education programs," he added.
The Sun proposal will be introduced in the Legislature tomorrow.
Rep. Nathan Suzuki (D, Salt Lake) will introduce the bill to permit casino gambling at a specific site on West Oahu, with the 12 percent wagering or gaming tax used for Hawaii high-school scholarships in the University of Hawaii system.
Sun has hired former state Superintendent of Education Charles Toguchi, also a former state senator and campaign coordinator for Cayetano, to work on the educational scholarships. Toguchi went with Cayetano on the Bahamas trip in December.
The scholarships are patterned after the successful HOPE scholarships in Georgia, where a portion of the state lottery proceeds pay for the college tuition of all Georgia high-school students who graduate with a B average.
"They were able to send almost a million kids to college in 10 years," Toguchi said.
Also working on the campaign is Jack Seigle, a veteran public-relations and media consultant who has guided the campaigns of key state Democrats.
Suzuki said he planned to give a five-minute briefing on the bill, which is supposed to create 5,000 new, recurring jobs just at the one casino facility.
Senate President Robert Bunda said he was also open to the idea and, like Cayetano, he has previously supported bills for lotteries and horse racing. But he was not sure if the bill had enough votes to pass the Senate.
Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa (D-Waianae) said she was against it and doubted it would pass.
"I have a difficulty with it unless my constituents tell me it is something they want," she said.
House Speaker Calvin Say, who also has introduced a gambling bill with the proceeds earmarked for long-term care for elderly, said he hasn't seen a lot of support for the proposal.
Hawaii Revised Statutes