Will Hawaii Beach Its Latest Online Poker Thrust? Tourists Sure Hope Not

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A Hawaii online poker bill is now under consideration by Aloha State lawmakers. SB 677, a 29-page bill proposed on January 23 in the State Senate, would allow internet gambling operators to conduct business there.

Hawaii online poker bill SB 677
If  Hawaii online poker bill SB 677 passes, this could be you, playing. (Image: reference.com)

That includes online poker, lottery, and other casinos games, excluding sports betting. Currently, only three states (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware) have legalized online gambling. Many other states, including California and Pennsylvania, have flirted with the idea.

Despite optimism to pass legislation in Pennsylvania last year, the Keystone State still doesn’t have legalized internet poker sites in operation. That could all change in 2017. As for Hawaii, no timetable has been set to bring SB 677 into action.

Making It Legal

SB 677 addresses the dark side of online gaming: the use of unregulated sites, where aficionados play at their own peril. Offering a legal alternative would not only help fund state coffers, but also ensure that player funds are secure and eliminate the likelihood of collusion and other kinds of cheating.

“The legislature . . . finds that tens of thousands of Hawaii residents are estimated to participate in illegal online gambling on unregulated internet web sites,” the bill reads.

Since 47 of the 50 states don’t have any licensed poker sites, some overseas companies continue to operate illegally. But many poker players, understandably, don’t trust unregulated sites.

“Tens of millions of dollars in revenues generated from online gambling are being realized by offshore operators serving Hawaii residents, but no benefits are provided to the State,” SB 677 declares.

Protecting Hawaii residents and generating revenue is the focus of this bill. The money generated from SB 677 would go to education and other programs.

What’s in the Bill?

The bill is similar to legislation that’s passed in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. Should it make its way through both Houses, Hawaii will be able to consider shared liquidity with other states. The proposed bill will allow licensed gambling operators to:

Offer internet wagering on games of chance and games of skill, including lottery, poker, and casino games, to individuals over the age of eighteen years; provided that the corporation shall not offer internet wagering on any sporting event or sporting contest.

As in all US states, there will be strict rules for obtaining an internet gambling license in Hawaii. A criminal background check will be only part of the process.

“Members of the board shall be prominent persons in their business or profession and shall not have been convicted of any felony offense. The board shall include individuals with knowledge and expertise in lottery and gaming, marketing and entertainment, technology, accounting, law, and operation of a business enterprise,” the proposed rules state.

An internet gambling operator will also be required to provide information on how and where to receive counseling for problem gambling. In other words: standard stuff.

Interestingly, Hawaii is one of only a handful states with nothing in the way of land gaming. Can you imagine sitting on the beach with your laptop, playing online while you hear the waves lap in front of you? Sure sounds like a great tourist promotion to us.

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