Friday, March 30, 2001

Group insists
gambling ‘logical’
choice for isles

The mainland group says casinos
would improve the economy

By Richard Borreca

A group of mainland investors -- including Marian Ilitch, who owns 25 percent of a Detroit casino -- is launching a push to legalize gambling in Hawaii.

The group, called Holomua Hawaii, plans to testify at a Senate hearing next Thursday to be held by the Economic Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Rod Tam (D-Nuuanu).

The committee is considering resolutions to authorize a study on the economic impact of gambling in the Islands.

But the new group is pushing its own study prepared by Michigan Consultants with the assistance of Lawrence Boyd, a University of Hawaii economist.

The group also is planning newspaper, television and radio ads calling for action by the Legislature this year.

"This is a serious effort at economic development for Hawaii," said John Radcliffe, who is has been hired by a public relations firm associated with gambling interests.

Radcliffe also is the associate executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which is threatening to strike April 5 if new wage increases are not granted.

Radcliffe sees legalizing gambling as a viable way to improve the state's economic health.

"This is a serious attempt to improve the local economy," he said. "We are hoping for some action this year."

The 75-page economic report concludes that if there were two casinos on Oahu they would bring in $431 million and 6.8 million visitors a year.

"It is entirely logical that a person who withheld support for past gaming proposals during other economic times would now decide to support the dual Oahu casino approach given the financial soundness of the proposal and the competitive and economic realties facing Hawaii," the report said.

In Detroit, Ilitch's casino, Motorcity, has taken in $872,000 a day from food, drink and gambling, according to a report by Mandalay Resort Group, which owns 53.5 percent of the casino.

Senate President Robert Bunda, who has sponsored bills to legalize betting on horse races and lotteries, said he did not know if there was enough support in the Legislature to approve a gambling bill this year. Instead, he is hoping for a study during the interim.

Earlier in this legislative session, Gov. Ben Cayetano said he was interested in a proposal by Sun International to build a $800 million resort and casino at Ko Olina, but that proposal failed to generate support among lawmakers.

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