Tuesday, February 6, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Casino gambling bill called long shot

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Insiders are predicting that a bill to legalize casino gambling in Hawaii probably will die in the House without even receiving a public hearing or a formal committee vote, and won’t fare much better in the Senate.

Senate President Robert Bunda guessed yesterday the odds are only 60-40 in favor of the measure even receiving a public hearing and a vote by the first two Senate committees assigned to consider it.

Either way, gambling bills face tough going in the House and Senate Judiciary committees, with the chairmen of both committees on record as opposing legalized gambling in Hawaii.

House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Eric Hamakawa, D-3rd (S. Hilo, Puna), said he is still reviewing the gambling bills. But Hamakawa has been a strong opponent of gambling in the past, and observers said he probably won’t hear a bill this year.

House Speaker Calvin Say, D-18th (Palolo, St. Louis, Kaimuki), noted the 19 House Republicans are lined up against gambling, which means it takes only seven Democrats to kill any proposal. "It’s so easy to pick it off," Say said. "If there is no overall sentiment to move anything or consider anything, there is no need for a hearing."

In the Senate, Judiciary Chairman Brian Kanno, D-20th (Ewa Beach, Makakilo, Kapolei), has said he also opposes gambling.

Gov. Ben Cayetano said earlier this year he is willing to consider a proposal to license a casino and tax the operation to finance college scholarships. Sun International Hotels Ltd. is proposing an $800 million resort and casino at K¯ Olina, and Cayetano toured the company’s Atlantis Resort and casino in the Bahamas.

Sun International’s proposal would have to clear Kanno’s panel and three others in the Senate before advancing to the House.

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