HONOLULU (KHON2) — Could Hawaii get its first casino? If a controversial proposal by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) passes next week, the state would be one step closer to that reality.

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DHHL hopes to gain momentum for its casino proposal by highlighting its economic benefits.

“Given the impact of COVID-19 on our economy, the Department is proposing a bold measure that’s proven successful for indigenous groups in generating critically needed revenue to improve the lives of their people,” said Tyler Iokepa Gomes, DHHL Deputy Chair. “We are at a pivotal moment in the history of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and resources to develop infrastructure and acquire lands will be needed to fulfill the vision of Prince Kuhio.”

Their submission to the Hawaiian Homes Commission proposes:

The purpose of the act is to authorize limited casino gaming in the form of a single integrated resort property in Kapolei on Hawaiian Home Lands designated for commercial use in order to address historic funding shortfalls to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands made worse by the economic shutdown from the global pandemic.


Hawaii state senator Mike Gabbard, who represents District 20, says the controversial bid will face staunch resistance.

“In my time as an elected official, gambling has been unique in that it’s brought together both those on the right and the left in opposition,” Mike Gabbard “So I’ve been opposed to gambling through the years primarily because of the social costs.”

Gabbard went on to explain that gambling, specifically casinos, leads to increases in gambling addiction, which can lead to an increase in poverty, substance abuse and an overall negative impact on families.

“I don’t think gambling is a good idea for DHHL or Kapolei in general,” Gabbard said.

He added that he thinks the bill is outside of the scope of DHHL’s mission to provide housing to Native Hawaiians.

“Their proposal brings up a lot of legal questions at the state level and even the federal level given the fact that Native Hawaiians have still not received federal recognition like Native Americans,” Gabbard stated.

The state senator says it would need to go through a lengthy process to happen.

“You’d have to get the approval by the (Hawaiian Homes) Commission and then it goes to the Governor’s office to include in his package, and then there would have to be a decision there,” he explained.

From there, the bill would go to the Senate and House leadership to determine which committee should look at it. Hearings would have to be scheduled and once all of that is done, the legislature would vote on it.

“If it gets that far, there will definitely be a very lively discussion and conversation about this in both chambers, I predict,” Gabbard said.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission will discuss and vote on the proposal by DHHL during its upcoming meetings on Dec. 21 and 22 at 9:30 a.m. Public testimony will be accepted until Dec. 18 at 4:30 p.m. Click here to submit your testimony.

The complete meeting agenda can be viewed here.

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