'Gambling in Hawaii' poised for replay at the Legislature
By Richard Borreca
The projectors are warming up, the reels are threaded on the sprockets and we are almost ready to start screening our once-a-decade home movie: "Gambling in Hawaii."
There was a sneak peek last year when two state senators attempted to push through a last-minute bill without a public hearing that would have allowed one stand-alone casino in Waikiki.
But legislative leaders turned the lights on and the movie was pau.
The full version is expected to play to packed matinee crowds when the Legislature reopens in January.
Cast as the leading advocate is John Radcliffe, a local lobbyist of some repute.
"In my view it will be a significant issue before the 2012 Legislature. There will be significant citizen input on the issue," says Radcliffe, who represents Marketing Resources Group of Michigan, connected to groups representing several mainland casinos.
Returning in his role as foremost gambling opponent is Hawaii's senior U.S. senator, Daniel K. Inouye.
In an interview last week, I asked Inouye, in light of the state's serious need for new sources of income and jobs, why not a casino.
"Contrary to what they say, it is not an easy source of money," Inouye warned, reprising his 2002 statements.
Back then, Inouye said relying on gambling to fund state duties such as education would be "sinful."
"To say that gaming will be part of our economic development and alleviate our problems is a cop-out," Inouye said to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii almost a decade ago.
Last week, Inouye agreed "the state may pick up money," but he warned the state will have to come up with more money toward increased welfare, crime and other social ills associated with gambling.
Radcliffe counters that "casinos or other forms of gaming entertainment are enjoyed by 100 percent of the American population outside of Hawaii and Utah," so why should there be discrimination in Hawaii?
"Prohibition of liquor didn't work for the U.S. from 1920 to 1933, and prohibition of gaming is not working for Hawaii. It needs to be regulated and controlled," Radcliffe said.
Whenever we run this movie, we are deep into the Al Capone metaphors before the second reel.
Radcliffe is invoking prohibition, but Inouye tops him by hinting darkly that you just don't want these gamblers around.
"By the very nature of that enterprise, gaming and gambling, you are going to include people who are not the kind you take home for dinner," Inouye said last week.
In 2002, Inouye envisioned a Waikiki not filled with joyful honeymooners smooching on the lanai but instead, "The people who come to this hotel will be a different type of people."
I asked Inouye how he can be against gambling for Hawaii, but has been a champion of allowing Native Americans to permit casinos on their reservations.
"It is their sovereign right. ... I have told the Indians, I support your right to have gambling, but I always tell them to get other sources of income," he answered.
Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's just one of the comments that appeared:
KeithHaugen wrote:It's the same story every year -- the gamblilng industry, the syndicate and others try again, and again, to introduce legalized gambling in Hawai`i, with total disregard for the increases in crime and other social ills that always accompany such a move. Then sometime during the legislative session, the elected officials find out that the vast majority of Hawai`i residents are smarter than they think and they realize they would be ousted in the next election,and the gambling bills fail, to the rejoicing of the community. Each year, the gambling companies that make millions or billions off those willing to give up their money, try to make us think that gambling is harmless "gaming" and their is not risk to the community, only to those who lose their money. That doesn't work either. We're smarter than they are, or at least smarter than they think we are.