Hawaii sports betting would be legalized under a pilot program proposed by a state lawmaker in Honolulu.
State Rep. Chris Toshiro Todd’s bill (House Bill 736) would allow digital sports betting at up to five in-state businesses under a pilot program operated by the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. Each license would come with a $30 million price tag for the length of the program, which would end June 30, 2025.
Todd, D-Hilo, said in an email to Gaming Today both retail and mobile sportsbooks could potentially launch under his proposal.
The bill specifies only that “no more than five businesses in the state” will be issued licenses to operate digital sports betting platforms.
“(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 the email. “This bill would certainly apply to app-based gaming, but could potentially apply to a brick and mortar location under certain circumstances.”
Todd’s bill is from 2021, but carried over to the 2022 regular legislative session after stalling at the State Capitol last year.
The bill has yet to be referred to a committee for review this session.
Sports Betting Would Be Exception To State Gambling Law
Sports betting is regulated by gaming or racing commissions in most states. But Hawaii, at least for now, doesn’t have a state gaming (or racing) commission.
The reason? Hawaii doesn’t have any legal gambling.
The state’s longtime prohibition against gambling (including casinos, racing, and a state lottery) has made a state gaming commission unnecessary.
Todd’s bill would carve out an exception to the state’s definition of gambling for digital sports betting during the pilot program only.
Once the pilot program ends, so would the exception for sports betting in the gambling definition.
2022 Hawaii Sports Betting Proposal
Digital sports betting platform licenses proposed by Todd would cost $30 million each and be valid only during the pilot program. The proposed last day of the program would be June 30, 2025, according to the bill.
If the pilot program becomes law, more legislation governing digital sports betting in Hawaii is expected to be filed.
State lawmakers in Honolulu could propose new or amended legislation to govern sports betting before or after that time.
Does Hawaii Sports Betting Have a Future?
HB 736 is one of several gambling-related bills deferred by the Hawaii State Legislature in 2021 that were allowed to carry over to 2022. Others would legalize live poker rooms (HB 383), an Oahu casino (HB 772, plus a proposal for a Waikiki casino in Senate Bill 1321), and create a Hawaii state lottery (Senate Bill 816).
House Vice Speaker John Mizuno — who also proposed creating a state gaming commission — sponsored HB 772, but told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in Feb. 2021 he had little expectation of passage at that time.
Lawmakers have been pretty mum so far this year about gambling-related bills’ chances at passage.
“Gaming is another controversial issue whose time has not yet come,” Mizuno told the newspaper last year.