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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Cayetano says cruise ship gambling would help state

Advertiser Staff and Wire Reports

Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday that gambling on interisland cruise ships would be good for the state, and should be allowed as long as it only takes place outside Hawaiian coastal waters.

"It's good for their passengers and if they can make another $8 million, then it's more business coming to Hawai'i," he said.

In an effort to maintain a monopoly for the now-bankrupt American Classic Voyages cruise ships in Hawai'i, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai'i, won federal legislation to prohibit ships with gambling facilities to operate in Hawaiian waters.

That forced the Norwegian Star, which arrived in the islands this past weekend to begin interisland cruises, to remove its casino.

Cayetano, in a meeting with Neighbor Island newspaper editors, also reiterated his support for a single-license gambling casino in Hawai'i, but only if the state's proceeds went for a specific purpose such as education or college scholarships.

Cayetano has taken a number of positions on gambling in recent years.

At one point, the governor supported a lottery with proceeds earmarked for education, but later abandoned that position because, he said, a lottery would not raise enough money.

He has also supported wagering on horse racing.

Cayetano has opposed casino gambling, but earlier this year said he was open to the idea of granting a single casino license to one operator in the state.

He also has said that lawmakers should allow voters to decide the issue through an amendment to the state Constitution.

Some key legislators favor gambling as a way to boost the tourism industry and create jobs. But others worry that gambling would open attract a criminal element and create serious social and economic problems for some residents and businesses.

Dorothy Bobilin, president of the Hawai'i Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, said the state should get serious about other forms of economic diversification and job training.

"Gambling is the wrong way to solve our problems," she said. "We can do better than a quick fix."

At least three gambling groups are expressing interest in establishing a resort-casino in the islands, including Sun International whose representatives will be in town next week, Cayetano said.

Sun International, which operates resort hotels and casinos in the Bahamas and Atlantic City, N.J., earlier this year proposed an $800 million resort-casino at Ko Olina.

The governor said a resort-casino in a more isolated location such as Kona or Kohala on the Big Island might be a better idea.

"The ones who have talked to me would all love to be here on O'ahu where the people are, but I think for the local people, I think we need to make it a little more difficult to get to," Cayetano said.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-8th (Wai'alae Iki, Hawai'i Kai), said he would favor allowing the individual counties decide the gambling issue.

If the proponents had a specific plan for how to spend the money, such as tax decreases or education spending, "I'd be much more open to it ... but it's not a panacea," he said.

"We don't buy the idea that just having gambling will help the economy."