It could be a long wait for Hawaiian policymakers, who would like to use income from legalised gaming to invest in island infrastructure, to make a firm yes or no decision by December 2026.
In a move by the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs late last week, an amendment was made to bill SB 1321, which gives the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) the power to create a legal gaming industry.
Supportive of amendments
The Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, William J Aila Jr., welcomed it, saying: “We are supportive of the amendments made by the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs to SB 1321 that would allow the Hawaiian Homes Commission and their beneficiaries the authority to create a gaming operation.
“If successful, this measure would provide DHHL a consistent source of funding in order to develop homestead lots. That is our purpose, and in order to do that, the Department needs a consistent source of funding for infrastructure construction.”
The DHHL will require a ‘super majority’ under the terms of the amended bill to ratify the introduction of casinos across the islands, but not on native soil.
Need for investment
The bill itself brings home the desperate need for investment, with a growing black hole in the construction budget of the islands, to build new homes. It indicated: “The legislature further finds that over 28,000 native Hawaiians are awaiting homestead leases while the department of Hawaiian home lands struggles to develop land and lots.
“Current costs for infrastructure development, borne by the department, are in excess of $150,000 per lot. In order to fulfill the needs of the current waitlist, the department requires over $6,000,000,000 for infrastructure costs alone to serve its beneficiaries. This significant sum is separate and apart from costs for maintenance of existing lessee communities housing nearly 10,000 beneficiaries, upkeep of several utility systems, and other costs.
“Over the last decade, the legislature has funded the department at levels higher than in years past, which has provided increased opportunity for the department of Hawaiian home lands to increase its reach. However, by conservative estimates, it will take the department at least another hundred years to meet the needs of its beneficiaries at current funding levels.”
Alternative means of revenue
It added: “The legislature additionally finds that, in the face of an unprecedented and historic budget shortfall as a result of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the department of Hawaiian home lands must seek alternative means of revenue.
“One alternative is the development of an integrated resort that includes limited casino gaming on Hawaiian home lands designated for commercial use on the island of Oahu, excluding lands west of Ko Olina in order to address the staggering budget shortfall this century through increased revenue for both beneficiaries and the department of Hawaiian home lands.”