Hopes to build Hawaii’s first resort casino near Kapolei to generate revenue to get more than 20,000 Hawaiians onto their ancestral lands hit a major road block today when a bill failed to move out of committee.
State Rep. Sean Quinlan, chairman of the House Economic Development Committee, deferred House Bill 359, which has divided the Native Hawaiian community and the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission on whether legalized gambling is the right way to help get Native Hawaiians into homes and onto land.
Quinlan’s decision followed testimony from Honolulu law enforcement opposed to HB359 — and sometimes passionate testimony from Department of Hawaiian Home Lands officials who said a casino on Oahu could be different than Las Vegas-style casinos and is the best idea to generate millions of dollars of revenue to help clear the backlog of people waiting for homes and land.
A companion bill, Senate Bill 1321, remains alive and is scheduled to be heard Thursday in the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee.
“While the committee’s deferral of HB 359 was not an ideal outcome, we look forward to the future with hope,” said Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman William J. Aila, Jr. said in a statement. “The accompanying Senate bill will be heard next week, and we thank the Legislature across the board for allowing this conversation to come to the table. As we have previously commented, there are currently no other proposals to this scale that would close the gap of our funding shortfalls.”