The architect of the Hawaiian Homes Commission’s proposed legislation to establish a state gaming commission and build a casino on a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands parcel in Kapolei, Oahu, on Monday said the bill is “an opportunity to have a conversation about a number of shortfalls the department faces.”
DHHL Deputy Chair Tyler Gomes said in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawaii program the integrated resort and casino would add a “conservative estimate” of $30 million a year to the coffers of the department, which has a lengthy list of Native Hawaiians waiting for homesteads on about 203,000 acres of DHHL land statewide.
“I know there are people who have been waiting at least 30 years,” Gomes said. “But I think the bigger number and the more troubling number for the department is the estimation that if we continue producing homes and lots at the rate that we currently are — and assuming that no one is going to join the wait list after today, which we know is not going to happen — at that rate it would take us 182 years to address the wait list at the current funding level.”
Gomes said the department needed about $140 million last year to adequately carry out its mission.
“Contrast that with the $20 million that we did receive from the Legislature,” he said.”
Hawaii is one of only two states that has no legalized form of commercial gambling — Utah is the other. The bill goes to Gov. David Ige, who has expressed opposition and will likely not introduce it in the 2021 legislative session that starts Jan. 20.
State Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, an Oahu Democrat whose father is a beneficiary, has said he’ll introduce it if Ige doesn’t.
Regardless, the bill, if introduced, faces an uphill battle in the Legislature. Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki have expressed misgivings about the legislation.
In addition, Sen. Mike Gabbard, an Oahu Democrat who represents the district in which DHHL plans to develop the casino, and Sen. Kurt Fevella, a Republican representing neighboring Ewa Beach and the House minority leader, oppose the proposal.
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