Home Lands gambling bill dead

Legalized gambling on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is dead — at least for the current legislative session.

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, an Oahu Democrat and the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, on Thursday deferred Senate Bill 1321 indefinitely, killing the controversial measure “based on the feedback received and the sentiments of the committee,” she said.

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The original legislation would have allowed for an integrated resort-casino to be built on commercially zoned DHHL land in Kapolei, Oahu. It was introduced in the Legislature after a draft was approved 5-4 by the Hawaiian Homes Commission in December.

A House version of the bill was deferred earlier by that chamber’s Committee on Economic Development.

The version of the Senate measure shelved by Shimabukuro contained amendments by Sen. Donavan Dela Cruz, a fellow Oahu Democrat and the Ways and Means chairman, that removed the word casino and proposed the commission be authorized to decide whether to allow any type of legalized gaming on DHHL land.

“I support that discussion happening if that’s the will of the commission and the beneficiaries,” Shimabukuro said. “But at this point in time, it appears that there’s just not enough support, and this needs more discussion.”

William Aila Jr., who is both the commission chair and DHHL director, said in a statement that “a glimmer of hope” died for the cash-strapped department, which needs money to put more than 28,000 Native Hawaiians on a wait list on homestead properties.

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“Funding is the barrier between DHHL’s raw landholdings becoming developed lots suitable for homesteading,” Aila said. “… We have heard that gaming is a proposal much of our community does not welcome, but a consistent funding source for infrastructure to develop homestead lots is still a puzzle that needs to be solved.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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