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Hawaii County Council rejects high-stakes bingo

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KAILUA-KONA » The Hawaii County Council rejected a resolution that would allow high-stakes bingo, with those opposed citing concerns it would lead to an increase in crime and other problems.

The council voted 7-2 at a meeting in Kailua-Kona Wednesday to strike the bingo resolution from a list to the Hawaii State Association of Counties for presentation to the state Legislature, West Hawaii Today reported.

"I don’t think it’s right for our county," said Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha.

Brenda Ford, South Kona/Kau councilwoman, said studies show the government ends up paying more fighting crime, homelessness and other societal problems than the money generated from gambling.

"It’s like an addiction," said Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter. "We’re dangling this carrot in front of these people."

Those in favor of the idea said the county needs to explore creative ways to make money. "I don’t see any other outside-the-box ideas for how to raise our revenues," said Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who submitted the resolution, said high-stakes bingo isn’t the same as casino gambling. Bingo pots generally don’t go higher than $2,500 and the activity centers around socialization, she said.

"This is not pro-gambling," she said. "This is trying to seek a balance in what I see coming out of the Legislature."

"It’s still gambling," said Puna Councilman Zendo Kern.

Wille noted state House Speaker Joe Souki has indicated that creating a casino in Waikiki is a priority.

The council approved seven other resolutions, including one that would restore the counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax. Each county’s measures must be approved by the other three counties in order to be presented to the Legislature.

"At least pass this and send it to the other counties and see if there is any support," Onishi said of bingo.

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