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Panel calls for bingo ‘to help Hawaiians’

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While most gambling proposals are foundering at the Legislature, a House panel has advanced a measure that would allow bingo on lands designated by the Hawaiian Homes Commission.

The proposal would allow bingo games to be conducted by one licensee at one location, and would establish the Hawaii Bingo Commission as a regulatory body within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Revenues generated by general excise taxes on gross receipts would be divided, with 20 percent to the state general fund, 1 percent to a program to treat compulsive gamblers, 4 percent for administrative expenses and the remainder deposited into the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust Fund.

"I think this is a workable bill," said Rep. Faye Hanohano, chairwoman of the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee, which advanced the proposal 9-1. "The monies are going to go to help everybody. It goes to help Hawaiians so that they can better themselves."

She said lawmakers wanted to examine the proposal to see whether bingo could be allowed on Hawaiian home lands in the same way in which federal jurisdiction allows for bingo games on military bases in Hawaii.

"We’re saying, as a committee, why don’t we explore it and see if it is feasible," said Hanohano (D, Pahoa-Kalapana).

Republican Rep. Gene Ward cast the lone vote in opposition.

"I think this is just another part of the entrapment scheme that every year comes up — it’s a remedy for quick revenue," said Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai). "It’s really a trap in disguise because of the social ills and the costs that go to the greater society."

Meanwhile, other gambling proposals have been put on hold or deferred by various committees.

A proposal to establish a state lottery has been deferred while the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee yesterday deferred a measure that would have allowed for a single stand-alone casino in Waikiki.

"I thought that the gaming measures provided another alternative to taxing pensions, raising the general excise tax and other kinds of revenue enhancement that the Legislature is presently contemplating," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe). "It at least gave another alternative. I’m a little bit surprised that the committee decided not to move it forward at least to keep the dialogue alive."

Hanohano’s committee voted to hold a separate proposal to allow casino gambling on Hawaiian Homes-designated lands.

"The committee said at least we passed out one, so we can work with the bingo and then maybe later on come back and work on the gaming, but not this session," Hanohano said.

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