New Online Sports Betting Bill Introduced in Hawaii Senate

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A bill seeking to legalize sports betting and poker in Hawaii has been introduced in the state’s Senate. Filed by Senator Ronald D. Kouchi, Senate Bill 3376 aims to create a Hawaii Gaming Control Commission and grant authorization for online poker and sports betting in the state.

Having passed its first reading last week, SB 3376 diverges from sports betting and poker bills that have been introduced in the past in the Aloha State. It uniquely directs tax revenue from wagering toward a wildfire relief fund to mitigate the estimated $6 billion in economic losses incurred due to wildfires in the state in 2023.

Apart from aiding wildfire victims, SB 3376 also seeks to combat illegal gambling. According to the state legislature, tens of thousands of Hawaii residents engage in illegal gambling, hindering the state's ability to generate revenue from legalized betting.

Under SB 3376, the proposed taxation would start at a 70% rate on gross receipts for the first year of wagering and would gradually decrease by 5% each year. The Sports Betting Alliance projects that regulated sports betting in Hawaii could yield an annual tax revenue of $6.8 million.

Strict Application Process and License Fee

Additionally, SB 3376 stipulates that only one operator should be given a license to operate in Hawaii. However, the sole operator would have to pass through a rigorous application process to be selected.

The prospective operator must apply for a wagering license within 60 days of the application window's opening. Applicants are also mandated to submit a development plan outlining details like the estimated employee count, economic contributions to the community, projected gross receipts, and a training plan for the operator's workforce.

Each applicant is required to pay a $50,000 fee, which would cover the expenses incurred by Hawaii’s gaming commission in its background investigation of the operator. Should the investigation costs surpass $50,000, the applicant is responsible for the excess, while a refund is granted if the costs fall below that limit.

Additionally, a $200,000 bond must be filed by the applicant before receiving a license, serving as a guarantee for payments and adherence to the state’s gaming regulations.

The license granted would be valid for 10 years, after which the operator can renew for an additional 10 years.

SB 3376 also laid down some wagering regulations the operator must comply with while offering its services in Hawaii. These include a maximum bet limit of $1,500 per event and an age limit of 21 years and older for bettors and employees of the operator. The bill also proposes the establishment of a compulsive gambler assistance program for Hawaii residents.

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