Lawmakers fold their hand on casino bill


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

State House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro said a move to legalize casino gambling is dead at the Hawaii Legislature this session.

The Committee on Finance deferred a casino gambling bill yesterday after public testimony was overwhelmingly against it.

In the words of singer Kenny Rogers, said Oshiro, “;You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.”;

In light of Hawaii's economic downturn, the committee held a public hearing on House Bill 2251, calling for a five-year license to a casino gambling operation in Honolulu and creating a wagering tax.

John Radcliffe, a lobbyist representing gambling interests, said one casino in Waikiki could generate $522 million in income, attract new visitors and capture money from residents who gamble in Nevada.

In addition to the Honolulu Police Department, the Honolulu Prosecutor's and state Attorney General's offices opposed the bill.

“;We feel any benefit the state may gain from gambling revenues would be heavily outweighed by the serious and long-term detrimental effects of gambling,”; said Deputy Attorney General Lance Goto.

Goto said a 2006 national study showed casino gambling increased crime.

Honolulu police Maj. Susan Dowsett said legalized gambling relaxes the stigma attached to illegal gambling and would lead to increases in illegal gambling.

Dowsett said a study showed crime rates also went up in counties bordering areas with legalized gambling.

Coline Aiu, a kumu hula, said legalizing gambling would send the wrong message to Hawaii's children.

“;The future of our children should never be mortgaged for a quick fix,”; she said.