Hawaii Could Take Step Toward Sports Betting, Other Forms Of Gambling

The Aloha State has no legal commercial gambling of any kind, but there's no shortage of bills on the table
Hawaii statehouse
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Hawaii is one of the most unfriendly states in the nation to gambling. It has no legal commercial gambling of any kind. But could the ball get rolling on changing that in 2021?

It’s possible, under a slew of gambling bills that have come forward in recent days. Do any of them have a chance in 2021? It’s hard to say for a state that doesn’t even have a lottery, but the rate of gambling expansion on the U.S. mainland and COVID-19 related financial woes could potentially make this year different. Hawaii has had plenty of gambling bills filed in the past that have fallen short.

Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, has already opposed a casino for Hawaii, so the state is probably not a candidate for a retail sportsbook anytime soon. But, as other states have shown, betting on sports via the internet is the preferred method for bettors. If Hawaii ever has regulated sports betting, an online-only model like the state of Tennessee is home to might make the most sense.

Below is a look at all the gambling bills on the table as of Monday:

HB 97: Would allow charitable organizations to run online raffles.

HB 359: Proposal would lead to a 40-year license for a single integrated gaming resort.

HB 363: Would create a lottery for Hawaii. Would bar a state lottery from offering sports betting.

HB 383: Would create a state poker commission for the purposes of opening live poker rooms.

HB 457: Would create a task force for analyzing potential for gambling (doesn’t mention sports betting).

SB 561: Would create a lottery for Hawaii. Would bar a state lottery from offering sports betting.

SB 595: Would create a task force for studying sports betting specifically.

SB 816: Would create a state lottery. Bill doesn’t mention sports betting.

SB 853: Would legalize Mega Millions and Powerball lottery gambling only.

If you’re a sports bettor, SB 595 appears to be the bill to watch. If it passed, the state would study sports betting and deliver its findings in time for a potential serious sports betting push in 2022.

Market potential for Hawaii

Hawaii is an untapped gambling market, but it’s not a large one. It has about 1.4 million people. It’s a relatively small population, but it’s actually larger than states like Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Hawaii has about 300,000 fewer people than West Virginia, a state that top sports betting brands were still eager to get into in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s PASPA ruling.

The attractiveness of Hawaii as a sports betting market would depend on how the legislature legalizes it.

New Hampshire and West Virginia have comparable populations to Hawaii. Both states generate about $50 million in monthly handle during the NFL season, according to data compiled by Sports Handle. That could be what Hawaii would see as well under similar implementation.

Sportsbooks typically hold 5-7% of the handle in terms of gaming revenue.

Image credit: Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock.com

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