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Hawaii Faces Uphill Battle to Legalize Sports Betting

Hawaii Hawaii Faces Uphill Battle to Legalize Sports Betting
Jan 27, 2022 20:01Tim Ronaldson

Hawaii’s state House has put forth a bill recently that would legalize sports betting in the state. They face quite the uphill battle, though, as Hawaii is one of only two states in the U.S. that doesn’t offer any form of legalized gambling. The state doesn’t even have any legal lotteries.

The proposal also includes a mammoth tax of 55% on all sports gambling wins, and it’s not even completely clear by the language who would be responsible for paying it.

It’s nice to see that Hawaii legislators are trying to push legalized sports gambling forward, but does it even stand a realistic chance?

The Massive Tax Bill

The Hawaii proposal, which was put forth by Representative John Mizuno, calls for a 55% tax that would be levied on all sports bets. That’s an extremely high amount, compared to some other states such as Iowa and Nevada.

But, one of the biggest questions right now is who would be responsible for paying that tax. The language of the bill makes it seem like it’s possible that the bettors themselves would pay the tax. In other words, if a bettor won $100 on a wager, they’d receive $45.

Mizuno clarified the text of the bill recently, though, saying the tax would be paid by the sports betting operators. That sounds much more reasonable.

In fact, Mizuno said that Hawaii’s proposed bill would mimic that of New York, which recently launched mobile sports betting to complete their path to fully legalized sports gambling.

Who Would Regulate It?

A major hurdle that Hawaii faces in not only passing sports gambling legislation but getting it operational is that the state doesn’t offer legalizing gambling of any form now. That means a completely new agency would have to be formed to oversee all sports betting action. In most other states, an already-existing gambling agency becomes responsible for sports wagering.

Mizuno’s bill would create a new department under the state’s existing Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Exactly how that agency would regulate sports betting action is obviously up in the air.

The bill’s language also doesn’t specify how many operators would be allowed to open up shop in the state, though many people have figured it would be nine — since that’s the number included in other proposed bills.

In addition, it’s likely that Mizuno would likely push for mobile sports wagering, which would allow people throughout Hawaii’s islands to bet from wherever they are.

Uphill Battle, But Hope

Mizuno admits that it will be quite the uphill battle, since Hawaii and Utah are the only two states in the U.S. that don’t allow any form of legalized gambling. At the same time, he’s hoping that the progress that’s being made in sports betting throughout the rest of the country will help influence other state lawmakers.

He also believes that most people who want to gamble on sports are already doing so now — even if they’re doing it illegally. So, in his words, “let’s tax it and use those taxes to help with homelessness, to reduce crime.”

The lawmaker realizes that Hawaii is very conservative when it comes to many social issues, and gambling is one of those. But, he’s hoping the massive financial impact — thanks to that large 55% tax — might help change their minds.

What do you think?

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Tim Ronaldson
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Tim Ronaldson is a writer, blogger and marketer. He loves all things sports, especially covering the sports betting industry. He joined the AmericaGambles Team 2020 and is mainly responsible for columns and extensive reportage articles.
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