Hawaii Sports Betting

  • In 2021, Hawaii State Rep. Chris Toshiro Todd proposed HB 736, which would allow up to five Hawaiian businesses to receive digital sports betting platform licenses until June 30, 2025.
  • While HB 736 did not pass in 2021, it was carried over to the 2022 sessions (along with several other gambling bills) and is set to be discussed during the session.

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Hawaii may finally get regulated sports betting in 2022, with State Rep. Chris Toshiro Todd’s proposed House Bill 736, a sports betting bill. Todd’s bill was first introduced early in the 2021 sessions, but lost momentum before being carried over to the 2022 legislative session.

Sports Betting Bill Carried Over To 2022

The bill would allow no more than five in-state businesses to receive a digital sports betting platform license for a limited duration under what the bill calls a “pilot program”. The digital sports betting platform licenses will cost operators $30 million apiece.

The pilot program would last until June 30, 2025 and would be overseen by the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. These programs are usually designed to test the practicality and implementation of an idea (in this case, sports betting) before launching a full-scale program or industry.

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

Bill Would Be Big Change From Hawaii’s Status Quo

If HB 736 passes, it would bring monumental change for not just sports betting in Hawaii, but the state as a whole as well. As it currently stands, Hawaii is one of the few states in the U.S. to not offer any legal gambling options. The state does not currently allow sports betting, casino or table gaming, horse or dog racing, bingo for money, or even a state lottery.

As a result, HB 736 would create an exception to the state’s definition of illegal gambling to provide for legal sports betting for the duration of the pilot program. After the pilot program ends, sports betting would revert back to its previous state unless further legislation is passed. Regardless, allowing sports betting in Hawaii – even on a limited basis – would be a huge change for the state.

This is not Hawaii’s only gambling bill with the potential to make waves in the legislature. Several other 2021 gambling bills were carried over to the 2022 legislative sessions, including: HB 383, which would regulate live poker rooms; HB 772, which would authorize the construction of a casino in Oahu; SB 1321, which would authorize the construction of a casino in Waikiki; and SB 816, which would establish a state lottery.

While the introduction of the sports betting bill as well as the other gambling bills is certainly a step in the right direction for Hawaii’s sports betting industry as well as the state’s gaming industry as a whole, it is still a long way from passage and even farther from implementation.

Gambling bills have been proposed in Hawaii before, to poor effect; however, with the success of legal sports betting throughout the United States, 2022 may be the year that Hawaiians finally get at least some sort of regulated gambling option.

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