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Wednesday, April 16, 2014         

ON POLITICS


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Candidates don't want to gamble on gambling

By Richard Borreca

POSTED:



It is such a natural that when you tell people who have never been to Hawaii that we have no lotteries, they are astounded.

"Nothing? Not even a lottery for education?" they say. "Everyone has that."

Well, yes, everyone except Hawaii and Utah.

As much as Utah is linked to the Mormons, and their strict ban on gaming, Hawaii is still linked to its missionary past.

Last week former Congressman Neil Abercrombie nudged open the door to making gaming an issue in this Democratic primary race for governor.

Asked if he would support gambling or even a lottery for education, Abercrombie rejected gambling, but added that some form of lottery might be worth studying.

Even that was tentative.

"Hawaii by itself could not support a lottery any more than it could support casino gambling. We simply don't have the population base and I don't think people come to Hawaii to enjoy that type of activity," Abercrombie said.

But he did break some new ground by saying, "It is something to be explored only if we put it in a mega-lottery context and I would be willing to discuss it and look to see if education or cultural and arts" would benefit from it.

Abercrombie's website later posted a clarification noting that he is opposed to legalized gambling and a state lottery, calling a lottery "essentially a form of taxation."

"Neil is open to the possibility of joining existing multi-state lotteries if they would be willing to offer Hawaii specific prizes. ... Neil does not believe that gambling in any form needs to be explored right now," his website said.

For his part, Mufi Hannemann has held an unambiguous position against gaming, gambling and lotteries.

As forthright as is Hannemann's opposition, Hawaii's citizens might have a more nuanced opinion on lotteries or gaming in Hawaii.

It is already well-known that Hawaii considers Las Vegas to be the ninth island in our state archipelago.

Community leaders have been content to endorse trips to Vegas as the alternative to opening casinos in Waikiki.

Nine years ago the Honolulu Star-Bulletin surveyed voters and found the state split. Forty percent said they would oppose any form of legalized gambling.

Just 13 percent said they flat-out would support gambling, but a tantalizing 45 percent said they might support gambling.

The Big Island showed the most support along with union members, younger voters and political independent.

The end result is that while gambling is an issue ready for exploration, no one has found a way to make it a critical political issue.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.

 






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