One of the most surprising stories to break this week, courtesy of Legal Sports Report, was the news that Hawaii has emerged as being among the latest US states to present a bill that would pave the way for legal sports betting. It is a development that will raise eyebrows throughout the industry given the state’s perceived stance which is to oppose all forms of gambling.

Bill H 1107, if passed into law, will see the inauguration of a dedicated body – the Hawaii Sports Wagering Corporation which will regulate the state’s sports betting industry.

The bill outlined: “The legislature finds that tens of thousands of Hawaii residents are estimated to participate in illegal online sports gambling on unregulated internet web sites. These gambling web sites are operated by illegal offshore operators not subject to regulation or taxation in the United States.

“Questions often arise about the honesty and the fairness of the games offered to Hawaii residents, but neither federal nor Hawaii laws currently provide any consumer protections for Hawaii residents who play on these web sites. Moreover, 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.”

“To protect Hawaii residents who gamble on the Internet, and to capture revenues generated from internet sports wagering in Hawaii, it is in the best interest of the State and its citizens to regulate this existing activity by authorizing and implementing a secure, responsible, and legal system for sports wagering. The State’s interests are best met by doing so through a sports wagering corporation, which shall be a public instrumentality, operating for the sole benefit of the State, and accountable to the legislature and to the public through a system of audits and reports.”

SBCA Takeaway: Hawaii has been vehemently opposed to any form of gambling, be it casino, bingo, lottery, slots or sports betting mainly for social reasons. State policy makers and pressure groups have long argued that Hawaii’s status as a family-friendly tourist destination would be eroded by gambling, even though many residents are avid punters. Many of them, allegedly, also cite Las Vegas as their preferred holiday destination. We can only assume that the state legislature’s change of tack is not in response to that sleeping consumer demand, but to the scent of lucre hanging in the breeze as it blows west from as far away as the newly regulated markets in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Money talks, especially in the form of taxation from sports wagering!