Lawmakers consider bingo, lottery to help Native Hawaiians

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some gambling bills are still being considered by state lawmakers to help Native Hawaiians. Lawmakers are now floating the idea of having bingo halls and a lottery.

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The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs says bingo and a lottery would be on a much smaller scale than a casino, so it would not generate as much money. It might be more acceptable to the community, however.

“It can be done right away, you don’t have to build a new infrastructure and in terms of bingo, there’s already areas on Hawaiian Homelands where it could be done, whether it’s community centers or even churches,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro.

The committee also adopted changes to the casino bill being pushed by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL). It calls for the Hawaiian Homes Commission, if it decides to allow gambling, to have different options.

“If they chose to pursue gaming and if so in whatever form they wish, whether it’s casino gaming, whether it’s lottery, or horse racing, whatever it might be,” said Shimabukuro.

The goal is to have more lawmakers open to the idea because the leadership in both the Senate and the House have expressed that they do not want to legalize gambling. DHHL testified that beneficiaries are split 50-50 on the proposals. Opponents worry about the additional crime.

“It’s such a dangerous mechanism for me to understand why we are even talking about gaming when we need to control the crime rate that is happening already,” said Patty Teruya, a beneficiary and a commissioner with the Hawaiian Homes Commission.

Those in favor say something has to be done to get Native Hawaiians into homes that they deserve.

“So unless you have a better plan this legislative cycle or in the very very near future, I respectfully ask you to pass SB 1321,” said Kamuela Werner, a beneficiary.

The bill also calls for a supermajority — six of the nine commission members have to vote in favor of the bill. DHHL says the changes are fine because the bill still allows the Department to be self-sufficient and help the beneficiaries. Shimabukuro says new ideas are needed.

“All the departments, including DHHL, are trying to look at how they can diversify to bring money into their department. And so this is really out of the box thinking,” she said.

Another hearing is scheduled for the gambling bills on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

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