Hawaii Gov. hedges, leaves gambling up to voters

Jan 15, 2002 4:00 AM


Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano would like to see legalized gambling in his state, but only if the voters approve a constitutional amendment.

The amendment, which would spell out how many gambling venues could operate and what would be legal, might effectively kill gambling proposals for this year.

“One of the big reasons that a place like Las Vegas has all kinds of problems is because they’ve got slot machines and gambling in everything from grocery stores to service stations to McCarran Airport,” Cayetano said.

Senate Majority Leader Cal Kawamoto said the legislative branch is sharply divided on gambling, making a two-thirds vote on the issue all but impossible.

Leading House Democrats said that a simple majority in favor of gambling probably didn’t exist. They plan to schedule a hearing on the gambling bill early in the session.

Seattle okays casinos

The Washington state Gambling Commission has given the okay for two proposed casinos to be built on Indian land.

The agreements now must be signed by Gov. Gary Locke and Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Both approvals are expected.

The two proposed casinos, one for the Snoqualmie Tribe and the other for the Muckleshoot Tribe, would bring the state total to 20. Federal law requires a tribe to enter a compact with a state before it can operate a casino.

Mohegan hotel delayed

The Mohegan Sun’s Sunburst Hotel is running slightly behind schedule from a construction standpoint.

“We have not changed our basic opening plan,” said Mitchell Etess, executive vice president for marketing. “All the miscellaneous glass is now on the outside of the building. Work is continuing inside, so weather is not a factor.”

Etess believes the Connecticut hotel will be ready for the April 15 grand opening. The hotel will begin accepting reservations Jan. 21. When complete, the 1,200-room hotel will feature a 22,300 square-foot spa, a salon and fitness center.

Maryland likes slots

A Baltimore Sun poll showed that 54 percent of 800 registered voters contacted by telephone favor a state constitutional amendment allowing slot machines.

The amendment does have a condition tied to its approval. Voters are asked that the planned gaming bill provides a guarantee that a portion of the proceeds are earmarked for education.

“The fundamental concern of the quality of schools in Maryland is making slots more politically palatable, especially in a time of economic uncertainty,” said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Inc., which conducted the poll.

Gaming reps woo Kentucky

Representatives from Mississippi and Illinois visited Owensboro, Ky. last week to explain the merits of gambling in their respective states.

Officials from Biloxi and Tunica, Miss., along with Joliet, Ill., spoke before a crowd of nearly 200 at a forum in Owensboro, Ky.

Owensboro businessman John Bays said he would spend up to $100 million in downtown construction if he gets a casino license.

Bobby Williams, the mayor of Tunica since 1993, said the city of 1,200 people was known as the “poorest county in the U.S. before the casinos came.”

The mayor indicated that casinos have reduced unemployment to 4.7 percent, employing 15,000 people at an average wage of $8 to $10 an hour. The average monthly payroll is $26 million, according to Williams.

Gaming looking up

An Evansville, Ind., legislator has submitted a bill that would loosen restrictions on riverboat gambling cruises.

Sen. Greg Server said the bill would allow gamblers to come and go as they please. The plan is being called a “flexible boarding” bill.