After years of being among the only two states to completely ban gambling altogether, Hawaii lawmakers are now singing a different tune. A proposal for a bill that would see Hawaii host both online and land based poker games has cleared its initial committee.
While the bill is a long way away from being passed into law, it is interesting to note that the legislation allows Texas Hold ’em and Omaha varieties of poker as a way to boost tourism and the economy. The bill now moves to the House Finance Committee.
Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-Olowalu-Kapalua, one of the proponents behind the bill is spouting what has been known for years, that being that live poker tournaments in Hawaii would not just attract new visitors and fill hotel rooms, but given Hawaii’s gorgeous location, it would bring national TV exposure and bolster the local economy. Hawaii would be an excellent location for a huge gaming industry event, why else would the NFL hold the Pro Bowl there almost every year? That’s a little joke, but the seriousness of Hawaii possibly being the first state to regulate online poker isn’t a laughing matter, though, to many of us, the odds of that happening are laughable.
As usual, gambling opponents have voiced concerns that if Hawaii moved forward with this legislation it would pave the way the state to eventually legalize casinos, lotteries and slot machines.
Gaming industry professionals aren’t exactly thrilled about the legislation either.
Canadian Business describes how the legislation would charge potential Internet poker sites at least $100 million each to locate their servers in Hawaii and impose a 20 percent tax on wagers which isn’t feasible, according to John Pappas, executive director for the PPA.
“The popularity of poker has made hosting live tournaments an attractive opportunity for many locales,” said Pappas in written testimony. “But we are dubious about the efforts to ‘regulate’ Internet poker in the state.”
We have heard this song and seen this dance before haven’t we? I’ll start taking this seriously when it gets past the House.