Hawaii residents will not see a casino on Oahu or elsewhere in the state anytime soon.

Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, chairwoman of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee, deferred Senate Bill 1321 indefinitely Thursday. Had it been passed into law it would have allowed the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to regulate limited casino gaming on lands in Kapolei. 

The measure could crop up next year, but it’s dead for the 2021 session.

“At this point in time, it appears that there’s just not enough support and there needs to be more discussion had on SB 1321,” Shimabukuro said.

Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair Maile Shimabukuro.
Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, center, deferred a measure to allow casino gambling on DHHL land. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

The five-member committee appeared to lack the three votes necessary to push the bill forward. A House panel on Feb. 5 killed a similar measure.

Even if either proposal advanced, both would have faced significant opposition from Senate President Ron Kouchi, House Speaker Scott Saiki and Gov. David Ige, who have publicly indicated opposition.

For the past week Shimabukuro’s committee had been considering amendments proposed by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz that would have given the Hawaiian Homes Commission five years to come back to the Legislature with a proposal on how to regulate gaming on homestead lands set aside for commercial purposes.

In December, the commission narrowly voted to forward a proposal to the governor that would have created a Hawaii Gaming Commission that would regulate gambling limited to a resort-casino built in Kapolei.

A significant chunk of future gaming revenues would have gone to fund the DHHL and finance development of some 200,000 acres of land set aside for homesteading.

DHHL Director William Aila had called the proposed amendments to SB 1321 a “glimmer of hope.” After the vote, however, he expressed his disappointment at the bill’s outcome.

“Today, that flicker died. Funding is the barrier between DHHL’s raw landholdings becoming developed lots suitable for homesteading,” Aila said in a written statement Thursday.

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