Bill to legalize poker in Hawaii introduced

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Legislators in Hawaii are trying to bring in-person poker and sports betting to the island.

State Representatives John Mizuno and Daniel Holt introduced a sports gaming bill in the state capital earlier this week. Under the conditions of the bill small gaming parlours would be legalized on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Oahu is the third largest of Hawaii’s island and the most populated with almost one million people.

Under the bill each licensed gaming establishment would be limited to 25,000 square feet of space. Each gaming parlour would be allowed to house somewhere between 10 and 30 poker tables.

Sport betting rules and regulations for the gaming parlours included limiting all sports betting to in-person on-site wagering for the first two years of business for a licensed venue. After two years if the licensed venue has followed all state gaming regulations and is deemed suitable to expand, an online sportsbook may be permitted.

There was no mention of a similar expansion to online poker for the in-person poker rooms.

One other interesting component of the sports gaming bill is that it limited to industry to businesses and residents in Hawaii. Under the terms of the bill only long-time business and residents of the state would qualify to apply for a gaming license.

The bill specifically states that key stakeholders in the any business that applies for a license must have been Hawaii residents for 35 years. This would seemingly eliminate the big players in the sports betting and poker world from entering the Hawaii industry.

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Hawaii has historically been a staunch anti-gambling state, which may mean the passing of this bill will be extremely difficult. Mizuno and Holt are hoping the large presence of illegal gambling activity in the state will persuade lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill to allow gambling in the state to be regulated and taxed.

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