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Friday, January 26, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Not backing
casino plans

A senator questions one proposal
in light of 'misinformation'
about his recent gambling
resort trip

By Richard Borreca

Ben Cayetano thinks that if Hawaii is going to award a gambling license to operators of a casino, it should auction the license and not simply give it away through a legislative action.

At the same time, Cayetano has been forced to defend his trip to the resort and gambling spa in the Bahamas with two lobbyists hired by a casino and resort developoer, Sun International.

Legislature The lobbyists issued a statement today, saying there was no deal put together in the Bahamas, and that Cayetano went to look at the resort's aquarium.

The governor is open to the idea of a casino if it provided large sums of money to help local education, but doesn't support the proposal by Sun International.

"I said I am open to the idea, but I have not promoted it myself," he said yesterday.

Cayetano, an early backer of lotteries and parimutuel gambling in the past, is not backing such proposals now. He added that he is against wide-scale casino gambling in Hawaii.

In a meeting with reporters at the Capitol late yesterday, Cayetano reacted to charges by House and Senate Republicans that he had misled the public about his trip to inspect the Sun International casino operation.

Cayetano went with a political supporter, Charles Toguchi, and a former employee, Jim Boersema, to look at a resort, aquarium and casino in the Bahamas last December.

Toguchi and Boersema are being paid by Sun International to persuade the Legislature to allow it to build an $800 million resort and casino here.

When Cayetano went, his office at first refused to say where he had gone, then after a story appeared in the Star-Bulletin about the refusal, a Cayetano aide said he went to the Bahamas to look at the Sun International aquarium, billed as the largest in the world.

Cayetano also was to talk to the prime minister about telemedicine, said Jackie Kido, Cayetano communications director. No mention of a gambling proposal was made. When Cayetano returned, he said the trip was to look at the aquarium.

"Over the last couple of years, I've gone to California, Louisiana, to Florida to see different kinds of aquariums, even to Chicago," Cayetano said upon returning. "When I heard about this one, I thought I'd go and see it. And I think it's quite impressive."

Yesterday, however, Republican Sen. Sam Slom (Hawaii Kai) characterized Cayetano's initial response as "misinformation and disinformation."

"We now learn the governor was accompanied by the former superintendent of education, the former political chief of staff of the governor, the current lobbyist for the gambling organization, and they in fact spent a great deal of time talking about gambling and the proposal for Ko Olina," Slom said, referring to Toguchi.

House Republicans said the gambling proposal was a bad idea, adding, "It looks suspiciously like the fix was in for this particular bet," Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said.

Cayetano said he declined to identify whom he traveled with because Toguchi and Boersema did not want their names mentioned.

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