State lawmaker, tourism expert oppose DHHL casino in Kapolei
Tuesday 22nd December 2020
HONOLULU (KHON2) -- A plan to build Hawaii's first casino is moving forward despite push back from some lawmakers.
The Department of Hawaiian Homelands believes a casino could be the solution to their $200-million budget shortfall. Currently, the DHHL says that there are 28,730 individual Native Hawaiians on the waiting list for a homestead.
Bringing the "9th Island's" economic driver to the islands has been discussed for decades, but it could be a step closer to reality with the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) taking up the proposal to build a resort casino in Kapolei.
The DHHL wants the HHC to sign off on what it calls 'limited casino gaming.' An estimated 80 percent of the state tax on gaming revenue would go to the DHHL, and the department would be the primary beneficiary of the operation.
University of Hawaii Travel Industry Management Professor Dr. Jerry Agrusa says casinos aren't a perfect match for Hawaii.
"To bring in casinos is just not the solution to bring more tourists here. That's what the research has said," Dr. Agrusa explained.
In his research, Native Hawaiians, who would be the benefactors of the casino, weren't in favor of gambling despite their belief that it would help jobs.
"Yes, it might improve jobs, but overall, it was the social costs and the chance for organized crime and other addictions were just so high in their results," he added.
State Senator Kurt Fevella says he's furious that the casino was proposed and wants DHHL to run this past beneficiaries.
"Not just the Hawaiians are against this. A lot of non-Hawaiians are against this too because they don't want their nice and beautiful family community to come to one gangsta casino," Fevella said. "You know and I know Vegas started with syndicate gangsta money."
The DHHL wants to create a State Gaming Comission and State Gaming Fund through wagering taxes that it says would address crime and gambling addiction.
But, outside operations would still be necessary, according to Dr. Agrusa.
"Hawaii doesn't have the expertise to run the casino. We don't have the background in it. So it's not the same, running a hotel as running a gambling establishment. We probably have to hire outside companies," he said.