The much-anticipated launch of online sports betting in Hawaii is now on the brink of becoming a reality following a significant milestone. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives Committee on Economic Development passed House Bill 2765.
The bill, aimed at overseeing online sports betting in Hawaii, was approved on Wednesday alongside some key amendments. Rep. Daniel Holt, the bill’s sponsor, is also behind HB 2762, a casino gambling bill that looks to introduce casinos to the state. The latter initiative will lead to the establishment of a hotel and casino on Oahu.
Hawaii Sports Betting Bill Moves Forward
The approval of both bills occurred through a split vote of 5-2, leading to them being referred to the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce or Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs. As the state’s legislative session for 2024 commenced on Jan. 17, it’s anticipated to adjourn in early May.
During a recent testimony before the committee, a lobbyist disclosed the presence of illicit betting platforms in Hawaii, emphasizing that the establishment of a “regulated and competitive” online sports betting framework would swiftly supplant them.
Revisions to House Bill 2765
To pass the online sports betting bill, the committee introduced several amendments to enhance its provisions.
One notable amendment proposed by the Committee on Economic Development involved revising the minimum betting age. The bill stipulated the minimum betting age at 18, permitting individuals aged 18 or older to engage in wagering activities on any licensed sportsbook.
Another modification to the legislation involved the allocation of tax revenue generated from sports betting. The committee suggested redirecting the proceeds of sports betting to a dedicated fund within Hawaii’s Department of Law Enforcement. This redirected revenue is intended to be utilized in the efforts to combat illegal gambling activities, encompassing both in-person and online betting.
The Hawaii House of Representatives Committee on Economic Development just passed (with a few amendments) H.B. 2765, which provides for the legalization and regulation of online sports betting in the state.
Multiple operators could be licensed to do business on the archipelago… pic.twitter.com/o2BJisNfbe
— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) February 7, 2024
Some funds will also be allocated to create a gambling mitigation program, an initiative currently non-existent in Hawaii.
The legislation permits the licensing of multiple operators in the Aloha State, with the stipulation that they are operational in at least three other states. However, the specific cost of obtaining a license is yet to be made known.
The proposed tax rate for wagering activities remains undetermined at this stage, but the legislation anticipates the state could generate approximately $9 million in annual sports betting tax revenue. This estimation is based on the expectation that leading online sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM will submit applications and receive approval for betting licenses.
Sports Betting to Foster Tourism
The Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Holt, emphasized that the proposal of bills HB 2762 and 2765 is poised to stimulate the expansion of Hawaii’s tourism industry, serving as an avenue to draw in visitors.
Nevertheless, the bills have encountered resistance from opponents who object to both casino gambling and online sports betting. The fate of these bills hinges on garnering sufficient support in both the House and Senate; otherwise, they may not be made into law.
During the committee meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Elijah Pierick expressed his opposition to the bill, emphasizing his belief that gambling, as a concept, is inherently wrong. He further argued that the potential revenue generated through taxation does not provide sufficient justification for the legalization of sports betting.