Hawaii Sports Betting Bill Includes Industry-High Tax Rate

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Hawaiian lawmakers, seeing the growth of sports betting on the mainland, have jumped feet first into promoting legislation to bring the opportunity to the 50th state. 

State Rep. John Mizuno, the vice speaker of the House, formally introduced two bills Monday. 

House Bill 1815 allows for sports betting in the state, and among other things, establishes a 55% tax rate on revenue. 

“There shall be levied, assessed, and collected a tax of fifty-five per cent on all winnings paid out to any person by a sports wagering provider.  The tax revenues shall be deposited into the sports wagering special fund,” the text of the bill reads. 

Based on that language, some have questioned whether it aims to tax the bettor or the sports betting operator accepting the bet. 

Charlie St. Sure, a session worker for Mizuno, said the intent was to tax the gaming entity and not the consumer.  

The bill, St. Sure said, was modeled off of legislation in New York, which has the highest tax rate in the U.S. sports betting market at 51%.  But New York taxes the entity, not the bettor. 

St. Sure said if the language is unclear, they can amend. 

The bill also establishes a state corporation to monitor and administer sports betting in the state.

House Bill 1820 calls for a single stand-alone casino in Waikiki and establishes a casino control commission for the state. The casino may not be located in a hotel, according to the legislation. 

Both bills passed first reading Monday, the first in a three-step process to pass the Hawaii  House. 

Other Sports Betting Option In Hawaii

Last week, State Rep. Chris Todd reintroduced his own legislation to bring sports betting to the state. House Bill 736 would establish a pilot program. It was originally introduced in 2021 but didn’t go anywhere.  

“(HB 736) is intentionally broad to give flexibility to the state to define what ‘digital sports betting on a platform’ can mean in practice,” Todd said in an email to Gaming Today. “This bill would certainly apply to app-based gaming, but could potentially apply to a brick and mortar location under certain circumstances.”

Gambling A Boost To Hawaii Economy?

Hawaii is in an increasingly small boat of states that does not allow gambling in any form. Mizuno believes, however, the state could benefit from retail gambling options, provided they are small and monitored. 

According to the text of the language for HB 1820, Waikiki in particular has suffered in recent years, and with increased options for tourists, the region could come back. But Mizuno targets sports betting as less than optimal for economic development.

“The legislature finds that thirty years ago, Waikiki was the center of nightly entertainment in Hawaii. There were eight movie theater screens, multiple nightly live musical performances, a host of night clubs, and many other evening activities. Within the past few years, Waikiki has seen the movie theaters, musical performance venues, and night clubs all shut down, leaving Hawaii visitors with very few nighttime activities,” the bill reads. 

“The legislature finds that a single casino in Waikiki will not only provide tourists with memorable nighttime activities but will also stimulate the economy by creating hundreds of jobs and generating millions of dollars in revenue for the State. By comparison, other forms of gambling, such as lotteries, internet gambling, and non-casino electronic gambling, create few quality jobs and do not generate significant economic development in the State.”

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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