Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Could This Be Another Ploy by Detroiters Who Want Gambling in Hawaii? Or is it a smokescreen for something else?


By Andrew Pereira
HONOLULU- A recent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone includes a description of the resort as ‘providing casino facilities.’

The application was made October 7 as Stone sought to trademark the name Ko Olina for his holding company, Ko Olina Intangibles LLC.

Khon2 brought the trademark application to the attention of Dianne Kay, president of the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

"That would be the last place I would want to go if I were taking my family to a resort or a hotel in Hawaii or anyplace else,” said Kay, who noted last month Disney opened its Aulani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina, which is billed as a family friendly getaway.

In a statement Mr. Stone’s public relations company said the inclusion of ‘casino facilities’ in the trademark application was done by a mainland filing agency, and was not intentional.

“The inclusion of ‘casino facilities’ was basically an administrative oversight, particularly given Hawaii does not allow gambling,” read the statement by Sheila Donnelly & Associates. “An amendment is being filed to have “casino facilities” removed from the application.”

However another trademark filing approved by the USPTO in October of 2008 also mentions ‘providing casino facilities’ as one of the possible forms of entertainment at Ko Olina, which has been tied to gambling in the past.

In 2001, Ko Olina Resort was mentioned as a possible site for a stand along casino when former Gov. Ben Cayetano contemplated the possibility of legalized gambling. Anti-gaming advocates were successful in pushing back the effort, even as Hawaii’s economy suffered in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9-11.

Flash forward to present day and the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is gearing up for what could be its toughest battle yet. A bevy of gaming bills is expected during the upcoming legislative session in mid-January.

“The situation has changed somewhat,” said Kay, “however we have confidence the legislature will do the right thing and not want to jeopardize the growing tourist industry.”

John Radcliffe, a well connected Honolulu lobbyist, confirmed Tuesday he’s been hired by Marketing Resource Group to try and persuade state lawmakers about the economic benefits of gambling. TheMichigan based company represents MotorCity Casino, Gateway Casino Resorts and Barwest Gambling, L.L.C., according to its website.

“I think a stand along casino is the way to go,” Radcliffe told KHON2. “I would imagine that there will be dozens of interested parties that will want to bid on the potential of a casino in Hawaii.”

During the last legislative session a House bill (HB781 HD1) for a stand alone casino in Waikiki was stalled by members of the Judiciary Committee. The bill would have created the Hawaii Gaming Control Commission, and required a $1 million non-refundable deposit from companies interested in applying for the casino permit.

Although Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not taken an official position on gambling, spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said he would “consider” any bill that reached his desk.

Kay is worried the governor’s new communications director, Jim Boersema, could influence Abercrombie’s position on gaming. Boersema worked as a pro-gambling lobbyist in 2001 when Ko Olina was floated as a possible location for a stand alone casino.

"I think that Jim Boersema will try to influence him,” said Kay, “but hopefully the governor will also do the right thing.”

House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro believes any gambling measure will be met with tough skepticism by state lawmakers, especially since the Council on Revenues recently predicted 14.5 percent growth to the state’s general fund during the current fiscal year.

“We'll have a debate and discussion (about gambling) but chances of it having success at the end are fairly slim,” said Oshiro. “The ultimate concern is always the social ills and whether the infusion of capital that we do get from gaming actually gets outweighed by the cost that we end up having to pay out.”

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