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Politics // Mostly Politics
Dan Boylan

Legalized Gambling Coming Closer

On Super Bowl Sunday, I attended what a close friend of mine – and a certified football fan and partier – calls “Hawaii’s best Super Bowl party. Da best!”

I don’t know about that. Lotsa good Super Bowl parties that Sunday, many with pretensions to being “da best,” I’m sure. But this one is good enough to have drawn me back for a few years running now.

It had it all this year (as it does every year): a table that groaned with assorted pupus, a second table that groaned with assorted main dishes, and a grill in the backyard that continued to supply both tables with ribs and sausages throughout two halves of football and a 35-minute blackout – all washed down by (who could count ‘em?) the contents of many, many coolers.

And, as usual, the party combined a great host and hostess with a good crowd. Nice people, generally well-mannered, if groaning, like the tables, at least in the first half, for it was a big-time 49ers crowd. Indeed, I could identify just one openly Ravens fan among those gathered.

But in the second half, or at least for much of the second half, those 49ers fans got a chance to cheer, and cheer they did until … let’s not talk about it.

Finally, the party had a requirement of any self-respecting Super Bowl party: a little pool on the score at the end of each quarter. You know, a buck or two from anybody who wanted to enter. For the winning 49ers fans who suffered so much in the course of the afternoon, heaven knows, they needed something to distract them, something to ease the unbearable … but let’s not talk about that.

Down at the Hawaii state Legislature they are talking about gambling, as they have after every Super Bowl Sunday since the Great Recession began; but they’re not talking about a buck or two in an office or party sports pool. No, once again it’s off-shore betting, a stand-alone casino in Waikiki, horse racing on the Big Island. By now, we all know the list.

This year the chances for legalized gambling look better – not good, understand, but better. Both House Speaker Joe Souki and Senate President Donna Kim have long endorsed some form of wagering and, as usual, Hawaii faces the uncertain fiscal future caused by gridlocked Washington, allowing an $85 billion cut in the federal budget March 1, half of which will come out of military spending.

Lawmakers could raise taxes, but tax hikes constitute contemporary politics’ third rail – touch ‘em and you die. A cut of legalized gambling’s profits would make everyone happy: tourists, state coffers and the already overburdened Hawaii taxpayer.

Besides, gambling’s a perfect fit for Hawaii. It’s as native to the Islands as fish and poi, plate lunches and zoris, Chinatown odds and an annual family pilgrimage to the casinos of downtown Las Vegas.

Honolulu Police Department doesn’t think so. Neither does former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle. They see the social costs of gambling outweighing any additional state revenue. Besides, how could Honolulu absorb more tourists than the near-record 7 million who deplaned in 2012?

No, for the time being at least, let’s limit our betting to office pools and Super Bowl Sunday.

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