Friday, May 25, 2001

Let people
vote on gambling,
gov suggests

He says a proposed amendment
could gauge support, but key
legislators doubt it'll happen

By Richard Borreca

Legislative leaders are rejecting a proposal by Gov. Ben Cayetano to put the issue of legalized gambling before the voters next year.

Cayetano yesterday suggested that the state Legislature should propose a constitutional amendment allowing one or two exclusive licenses for gambling.

"If the people say 'No' then that settles the issues forever. If they say 'Yes,' then we should make the most of it," Cayetano said.

But leaders in both the House and Senate said the trial balloon won't fly.

Senate President Robert Bunda (D, North Shore) agreed with the idea, but said it had little chance of passing in the Senate.

"I don't think the Legislature is ready to receive any kind of question about putting it on the ballot.

"If we didn't do it last year, I don't think we are going to do it now," Bunda said. "The chances are remote."

House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke agreed that gambling has little chance at the Legislature.

"It is kind of surprising that he (Cayetano) is taking this tone," Luke said. "In the past he hasn't really supported gambling.

"I don't support gambling and most of the members of the House don't support it. There is a feeling that it has a lot of social implications," Luke said. "If he brings the bill down we would take a look at it, but I don't think it would go anywhere."

Cayetano, however, said that while he thought a citizens' vote would be good, he wasn't going to sponsor it.

A recent statewide poll taken by the Star-Bulletin and KITV-4 shows that 37 percent prefer gambling as a way to raise money for education.

But 29 percent said that instead of allowing gambling they would prefer raising taxes.

Cayetano revived the debate on gambling late last year when he returned from an unannounced trip to the Bahamas to inspect the resort and gambling casino Atlantis. The trip was put together by resort operator Sun International, which also was interested in a gambling casino in Hawaii.

This week's discussion came after Cayetano attended a groundbreaking ceremony at Ko Olina, a resort area that Sun International was viewing for a casino.

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