HI Police Constrain Gambling, Lawmakers Debate Legalization

  • Hawaii’s police are complaining that they are unable to properly address illegal gambling.
  • The state is considering multiple bills that would regulate some forms of gambling.
  • Lack of enforcement and potential state regulation could presage a major change in how Hawaii approaches gambling.

HONOLULU - Hawaii’s police are complaining of their lack of ability to do anything about the burgeoning illegal gambling industry in the state. At the same time, the state’s legislative bodies are deliberating on multiple bills that would legalize gambling in the famously gambling-averse state.

Hawaii is one of the most draconian states with regard to gambling laws in the entire US, illegalizing the practice on nearly every level.

Hawaii Police Complain Of Forced Inaction

The police in Hawaii feel as though their hands are tied in terms of enforcing gambling - they worry that evidentiary policies are too high of a barrier.

Lt. Michael Brede, the head of Hawaii PD’s gambling department, spoke with Civil Beat about the subject.

“If the courts or the law allowed officers to recognize a gambling device on site based on training and experience it would greatly increase their ability to address the rooms and shorten the time of the investigation,” Lt. Brede said.

The specific regulation they worry about is that they have to observe money being transferred as a result of gambling. They are not allowed to crack down on simply owning and operating a machine that could be used for gambling without proof.

Meanwhile, the state’s legislature is considering multiple bills that could regulate Hawaii gambling in the upcoming legislative session, many of which would make the police’s complaints moot.

Hawaii Legislature Fields Multiple Gambling Bills

Hawaii has multiple gambling bills on the table, and any of them passing would represent a major sea-change in how the state has approached gambling.

Hawaii’s Gambling Bills

  • HB 383: Would regulate live poker rooms;
  • HB 772: Would allow for construction of an Oahu casino
  • SB 1321: Would authorize a Waikiki casino
  • SB 816: Would establish a state lottery

Each of these bills would change how the state approaches gambling, although it is likely that police crackdowns on under-the-radar gambling would still happen.

Still, one wonders if the ineffectiveness of police combined with the attitudes towards legalization and regulation in the legislature could be heralding a major change in how Hawaii handles gambling.

Online gambling fans will have to wait, however, as all of the bills seem to be aimed at physical gambling locations.