In an unexpected turn for the state, lawmakers are finally giving serious consideration to the prospect of Hawaii sports betting. With three bills in committee, each addressing a different facet of the industry, local sportsbooks could become a reality sooner than bettors think.
First Push For Fantasy
The first of the bill only asks the state to take baby steps as it enters the industry. House Bill 2004 aims to legalize Daily Fantasy Sports by changing the game classification to one of skill.
In 2016, the Attorney General ruled that these games were illegal because they were based on chance. Hawaii’s anti-gambling laws are very rigid in this way, not even allowing for the operation of lottery games.
Lawmakers hope that, like the rest of the country, the approval of Daily Fantasy Sports will segue into the legalization of USA online sportsbooks.
But, in reality, this bill wouldn’t do much for the future of sports betting. If the future of Fantasy relies on its distinction from gambling, the bill does not add favor to the prospect of legal sportsbooks.
Mobile Betting Frenzy
Another sport betting bill up for consideration is House Bill 1973. The measure would legalize mobile sportsbook betting for an unlimited number of operators—so long as they pay their yearly dues.
If the bill were to pass, sportsbook costs would include a $50,000 licensing fee paid triennially to the state along with an annual tax rate of at least 10%. While the astonishingly low tax rate may be appealing to operators, it doesn’t sweeten the deal for lawmakers.
Rep. Chris Todd, the bill’s primary backer, has since stated that 10% was simply “a placeholder” and that he would be open to a more significant figure when the bill moved on to the hearing stage.
Rep. John Mizuno, on the other hand, expects sportsbooks to cough up more than half of their earnings if given the chance to operate in the state. House Bill 1815 has a similar framework to that of House Bill 1973.
The major caveat? Mizuno’s 55% tax rate.
Taxes Translate To Hesitation
Mizuno’s request is bold, surpassing the tax rates in any other sports betting state. Still, Hawaii has been firm in its dismissal of all prior gambling legislation. If operators want to claim territory in the Aloha State, 55% might be the price they have to pay.
The consideration of sports betting in Hawaii is a big deal. Unlike most states, Hawaii is positioning itself to be an online-only location. It is indicative of the state’s hesitancy to trust major gambling operators.
While an app can be shut down at any time, there are more repercussions to take into account when second-guessing the welcome of several major casinos.
Once Hawaii opens its borders to gambling conglomerates, it will be hard to mitigate any issues that follow hastily-written legislation.
It is unlikely that the state will pass sports betting this year. Even so, these bills demonstrate a willingness to change. And if this change is executed the right way, mobile betting could pose serious benefits for the state.
Source: Honolulu Civil Beat