HONOLULU (KHON2) — There was a lot of action Sunday — both on and off of the field.
The American Gaming Association predicts $7.61 billion was wagered on Super Bowl LVI. There’s a new push to allow online sports gaming in Hawaii now, with revenue going somewhere you might not expect.
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Sports gambling is sweeping the nation. It’s now legal in some form in 31 states and the District of Columbia after becoming federally legal in 2018. Hawaii and Utah now remain the only two states that outlaw all gambling.
“Number one, you want consumer protection. You don’t want that guy or gal getting ripped off from some offshore company account trace after they put their money in electronically. Number two, you want regulation,” Rep. John Mizuno (D) said of pushes to legalize sports gaming.
That’s why he introduced House Bill 1815 in this session. Rep. Mizuno argues that thousands of local residents spend money on legal sports betting, not to mention those that head to Las Vegas to place action legally, especially on a day like Sunday.
“You are going to see millions of dollars wagered on this game, and tens of thousands of people from Hawaii or local residents will be gambling on illegal websites that are offshore,” Rep. Mizuno said. “And I bet you, everybody watching this news segment. I will bet you either they or a friend or family member is betting on the Super Bowl.”
He wants legal online sports betting in the islands taxed at 55%. Through the first three quarters of 2021 alone, there was about $3 billion in revenue for states.
“New York just passed theirs. They have a ton of taxes on it, but it’s gonna go to a lot of good social programs,” Rep. Mizuno said.
Take New Mexico for example. The state grants its residents paid tuition at state public universities as long as they maintain a 2.5 or above grade point average. The source of that $63.5 million is the state lottery.
“Capture some of the tax revenue — which could go for a lot of good things like Hawaiian Homelands, affordable housing, and education for kids,” Rep. Mizuno said.
Still, there are plenty of valid concerns about gambling addiction. The National Council for Problem Gambling said about 2% of Americans are vulnerable. That would be about 28,000 Hawaii residents.
Rep. Mizuno wants revenue to also go to programs to help addicts recover.
“Make sure we have a commission to watch over and so if we have someone that has an addiction to gambling, he or she can get the help that they need,” he said.
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The bill passed its first reading and Mizuno is hoping it will head to the committee next. It’s scheduled for the Committee of Economic Development.