Friday, January 11, 2002

Adm. Dennis Blair, left, and U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye talked yesterday during the Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council luncheon, at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Inouye tells
Legislature to reject
gambling entirely

"Do the right thing," he says at
a meeting of community leaders

By Pat Omandam

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is expected to return to Washington, D.C., today after leaving a stern message for state lawmakers as they discuss the issue of gambling this spring: Do the right thing.

"I'm against gaming, not on a moral basis. I'm not a moralist. But I know this much. I'm a politician, and hopefully a pragmatic one," said Inouye, keynote speaker yesterday at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's annual luncheon with military and government leaders. "The worst thing we can hope to do for the state of Hawaii is have gaming."

Inouye said he believes allowing gambling -- in any form -- will hurt the state economy and attract a different type of visitor here. He added it is shameful to suggest gambling is needed to support education when all it will really do is increase Hawaii's crime and welfare rates.

"To say that gaming will be part of our economic development and alleviate our problems is a cop-out. I just hope that my colleagues in the Legislature here will do the right thing," Inouye said.

State legislators are expected to hear some sort of gambling bill early in the session to see if there is support for it.

If not, they may suggest a referendum to voters this fall on whether they want a temporary, specific form of gambling.

But Inouye said it is politicians who should decide these matters and be held accountable by their constituents.

If the public is upset about the decisions they make, then they have the choice of electing someone else to office.

"That's the referendum that counts," Inouye said.

Earlier this week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said while here that gambling has good and bad aspects. Hawaii must be wary of the downside and be prepared to deal with it, he said.

Also yesterday, Inouye said he is willing to consider amending a federal law known as the Jones Act that bans foreign-built and -owned ships from making direct visits between two U.S. ports of call.

The law, for example, forces the 2,200-passenger and foreign-built Norwegian Star, the only cruise ship currently operating in Hawaiian waters, to steam 600 miles south to Fanning Island in Kiribati on each interisland trip.

Meanwhile, Inouye said he supports the merger of Hawaiian and Aloha airlines because it is better to have one stable flagship air carrier in Hawaii than two weak ones, a situation that may attract competition from the mainland.

Hawaii residents and visitors are getting a good deal now on fares for interisland travel when you consider how much it costs for flights of similar distances on the East Coast, he said.

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