Friday, April 6, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

opponents confident
study would support
their case

Gambling supporters say a
resort casino at Ko Olina would
create 5,000 new jobs

By Lisa Asato

Some of gambling's biggest opponents are betting a study on legalized gambling in Hawaii will prove to be their greatest ally.

"I'm confident that if you look at gambling objectively, thoroughly, and put all the cards on the table, I believe it will confirm what most people already know, that gambling is not good for our state," said Mike Gabbard, chairman and founder of the Alliance for Traditional Marriage and Values.

Legislature At yesterday's joint state Senate hearing, an overflow crowd testified on two resolutions to study the effects of gambling in Hawaii. Three committees -- Economic Development and Technology; Transportation, Military Affairs and Government Operations; and Health and Human Services -- will decide on the measures today at 1:30 p.m.

Groups including the United Church of Christ, the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling and the Hawaii Green Party surprised Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Kailua-Waimanalo) yesterday when they also supported the study. He asked Gabbard if he would support gambling should the study be favorable. Gabbard replied, "That's not going to happen."

Sun International Hotels Ltd., which has expressed interest in building an $800 million resort and casino in Ko Olina, testified in favor of a study, saying gambling would create 5,000 permanent jobs and infuse significant revenues into the state.

"Our mission would be to repeat the enormous success of the Atlantis Resort in Paradise Island, the Bahamas, where we have become the largest employer in the country with a payroll of over $120 million annually," said Howard Karawan, Sun's executive vice president of marketing.

The majority of the crowd opposed legalizing gambling here, citing social ills such as organized crime and bankruptcy. But those opponents also said they favor Senate Concurrent Resolution 123 because it would study both the economic and social effects of gambling. They insisted, however, that senators amend the measure to ensure the study be done objectively and comprehensively, with adequate time and resources.

Testimony lasted more than four hours yesterday, and hordes of testifiers poured onto the Capitol lanai, where they watched the hearing on a TV monitor outside the closed door.

Senate Economic Development Chairman Rod Tam (D, Downtown-Nuuanu) said there is no chance lawmakers would vote on a gambling bill this session. "Time doesn't allow it," he said.

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