Joe Souki, the speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives, has tried for years to make gambling legal in the state.

As he lamented recently, it seems he’s one of the few lawmakers that support enabling legislation.

Undaunted, Souki is backing another gaming measure this year, one that establishes regulatory framework for licensed shipboard gaming in state waters. 

The bill explains:

In order to be competitive in the international market place, Hawaii must offer some type of gaming entertainment. Shipboard gaming would create a viable and unique visitor experience while providing thousands of local jobs. In addition, studies have shown that shipboard gaming would generate hundreds of millions of dollars, thereby expanding the State’s economy.

Souki’s bill is not the only one calling for some form of gaming, or at least to study it.

Vice Speaker John Mizuno wants to set up a commission to analyze the possibility of gaming in Hawaii.

Among other things, the bill calls for “an assessment of the economic costs and benefits for every form of gaming to the state, including but not limited to the lottery, casino, slots, table games, horse and dog racing, sports betting, bingo, and internet gaming.”

House Speaker Joe Souki, center, and Vice Speaker John Mizuno, at right, have introduced bills related to gaming this session. Majority Leader Scott Saiki is at left. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Rep. Scott Nishimoto, meanwhile, has a bill calling for an online fantasy sports contests registration and monitoring program to be housed under the Department of the Attorney General. It’s inspired by websites such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

The bill notes that the AG’s office a year ago announced that daily fantasy sports contests constitute illegal gambling under Hawaii law. But New York last year enacted a law “that legalized and regulated daily fantasy sports websites serving persons located in New York.”

A similar fantasy sports measure has been introduced by Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani.

The senator has also introduced a bill on behalf of another, unidentified party that would establish a Hawaii “internet lottery and gaming corporation” so internet gambling would be permitted in the state.

Revenue from the proceeds would be dedicated to “capital improvements at public schools and the University of Hawaii system, scholarships and educational loan repayments for medical students who practice in Hawaii for ten years, support for the family practice rural residency program, watershed protection, and reduction and prevention of problem gambling.”

Hawaii and Utah are the only states that prohibit gambling.

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