Friday, January 26, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 26, 2001

Any kind of gambling a bad bet for Hawai'i

So that’s where he went. For the best part of a day in December, Gov. Ben Cayetano’s staff couldn’t tell reporters where he’d gone, because they didn’t know.

Then we learned he had traveled to the Bahamas for four days to study the world’s largest aquarium — a sensible visit, considering his longtime desire to build something similar of his own in Kakaako.

But now, six weeks later, we know that he was accompanied by two well-known local lobbyists who were in the employ of Sun International Hotels Ltd., which not only runs the aquarium, but a chain of resorts and casinos.

Now Sun is proposing to build a major resort at Ko Olina — provided it includes a casino. It’s not clear how much of Sun’s pitch Cayetano was exposed to on his trip, except that he was informed that Sun would be proposing a Hawaii development.

Cayetano says he’s willing to listen, although he has long opposed casinos in Hawaii. That’s not strong enough.

The proposal is the same old idea tricked out in fancy new wrapping: Part of the lure this time is that the state would be "guaranteed" a minimum take from the operation that would finance a scholarship program for college-bound students.

As usual, the proponents are trying to present the notion that we can get something for nothing — in this case, free education.

We’ll spare you the full litany of the horrors of gambling. Suffice it to say that we’re aware of no gambling venue where the public costs don’t sooner or later exceed the public income.

All that said, Sun International is certainly welcome to explore a resort development at Ko 'Olina — without gambling. Interestingly enough, as gambling becomes ubiquitous among resorts worldwide, Hawaii’s gambling-free image is emerging as a powerful marketing tool. We’d like to think that, on closer inspection, Sun International might find that prospect appealing.

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