Hawaii has joined the myriad of US states to be considering the legalization of online poker and other Internet gambling options. A 29-page bill has been introduced by Sen. Will Espero earlier this month that if signed into law will strip Hawaii of its status as one of the few states without any legalized gambling options within its borders.
The Senate piece of legislation provides for the legalization and regulation of online poker, other casino games, and lottery. Sports betting has not been included in the bill, which means that if it comes into force, Hawaiians and guests of the isolated island state will not be able to wager on sports.Under the proposed legislation, the Hawaii Internet Lottery and Gaming Corporation will be created to monitor iGaming activities conducted in the state and to ensure that consumers are protected in a proper and effective manner.
Consumer protection has been cited as one of the main reasons for the bill’s introduction. According to its sponsor, Sen. Espero, tens of thousands of Hawaii residents are gambling on unregulated websites, thus exposing themselves to potential fraud with the state not being able to protect their rights. In addition, large amounts of money that can otherwise go to Hawaii’s coffers are annually lost to such websites. In general, Hawaii’s online gambling bill does not differ much from legislative pieces introduced in other US states. Interested operators will have to apply for a license from the local regulator. They will have to contribute tax revenue to the state. The money will then be channeled to different education and other related programs. Players will have to be aged 18 or over in order to be allowed to gamble online.
Similarly to Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, the only three US states where iGaming activities are legal, Hawaii will, too, be able to negotiate shared liquidity agreements with other jurisdictions. As mentioned above, the island state is not the only to be considering the legalization and regulation of online gambling options. Other US jurisdictions that are eyeing potential opening of their online markets include Pennsylvania, New York, California, and Massachusetts. It is believed that Pennsylvania is the closest to doing that. According to a state lawmaker, it may be during this year’s first quarter that the state legalizes online poker and other iGaming activities. As for Hawaii, it probably has a long way to go before seeing any legal Internet gambling options. Other lawmakers have previously tried to pass iGaming bills but those have failed to gain the necessary traction in the Legislature.