Hawaiians head for the ninth island for gambling

Hawaiians head for the ninth island for gambling

April 4, 2010.

Hawaiians with a yen to gamble refuse to be frustrated by island bans, reports the Financial Post in an interesting article over the weekend. Instead, large and growing numbers of them head off regularly to Las Vegas.

Locals of the state, which is made up of a string of eight islands, refer jokingly to Las Vegas as the ninth island, the Post reveals....and Hawaii's small population of 1.2 million generates more than 150 000 trips to Las Vegas each year. Some of the islanders make five or six trips a year, with the total spend in Vegas by Hawaiians estimed as being in excess of $100-million.

The Financial Post claims that the "ninth island" is so popular that 80 000 Hawaiians now live there.

The public demand for gambling in the state has created much political debate, but has so far been held off by conservative politicians resistant to changes in the status quo. The difficulties of making state budget ends meet has created more debate but no progress.

The usual arguments of providing the state and its people with more employment opportunities and revenues through casino taxes, should gambling be permitted is offered by the pro-gambling faction, who add that tourists visiting the island would find gambling facilities an added attraction, especially punters from Asia. And of course much of the cash taken to Vegas by Hawaiian gamblers would be retained in the islands.

"But the anti-gambling lobby is a powerful one, with roots going way back to the 19th century when the Christian missionaries insinuated the hand of God into every corner of society," reports The Financial Post. "It was that fundamentalism that at one point frowned on surfing, with the church discouraging Hawaiians from taking to the waves on their longboards because it provided too much pleasure and was next to wicked.

"Today, the lobby argues -- persuasively -- that any revenue from gambling would not offset the social and economic damage done to those who are most vulnerable. The anti-gamblers also argue that while economic times are tough now, any casino would be several years in the planning and building, by which time the times would likely not be as tough."

A recent editorial in the Star-Bulletin newspaper stated the anti-gambling viewpoint: "Polls during the 1990s showed that a majority of Hawaii residents understand the negative consequences and oppose its legalization. In 2001, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal to allow a single casino in Ko Olina was rejected by legislators. A bill two years ago to allow casino gambling to help pay for rapid transit was also cast aside. At some point, the advocates of legal gambling should tire of throwing the dice."

The anti-gambling streak running through most of the state's establishment is deeply entrenched. The Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is a well-organized campaign that has two simple goals: To educate the public on the overwhelming negative affects of legalized gambling and to prevent legalized gambling from being introduced in the state.

"As a result, about 3 000 Hawaiians each week will continue to get on the plane and travel to the "ninth island" and spend millions. Others will simply continue to gamble illegally at home," the article concludes.