(BIVN) – The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands made its case for casino gaming on Hawaiian Home Lands on Monday.
DHHL Deputy to the Chair Tyler Gomes addressed the Hawaiian Homes Commission during a virtual meeting, detailing the proposal that the department hopes to bring forward during the upcoming State legislative session. Gomes explained how gaming revenues could address DHHL’s nearly $200 million annual budget shortfall, and help get beneficiaries off the waitlist.
The proposal envisions limited casino gaming in the form of a single integrated resort property in Kapolei, Oʻahu on lands already designated for commercial use. From a DHHL news release:
Revenues from this initiative would be used to address DHHL’s dire financial state by ensuring the Department is the primary beneficiary of the gaming operation through a land lease agreement with the licensee and direct collection of 80 percent of the proposed state tax on gross gaming revenue.
DHHL’s proposal establishes a Hawaiʻi Gaming Commission, along with details that structure the gaming license application, fees, and criteria for awarding a license. A wagering tax on gross gaming revenue and a State gaming fund, along with other appropriate funds, are also established.
The proposed State Gaming Fund is expected to invest in initiatives to address possible increases in crime, gambling addiction, and other social issues as well as provide for public security, job training, traffic improvements, and the administrative expenses of the new Gaming Commission.
“The bottom line is that native Hawaiians have been ignored for decades and this program has been chronically underfunded from the beginning,” said Deputy to the Chair Tyler Gomes. “We’ve amended the state constitution, we’ve tried legislation both at the Federal and State levels, we’ve sued in the courts, and here we are 100 years later with beneficiaries still waiting. What we are asking the Commission for today is to allow for this proposal to go forward to the Legislature for a meaningful discussion and for the Legislature and the Governor to give us the opportunity to become financially self-sufficient so we can finally deliver on the promise made to the Hawaiian people.”
There are currently 28,730 individual native Hawaiians on DHHL’s Waiting List for a homestead lot. Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules allow beneficiaries to hold a maximum of two applications, one for a residential lease and the other for either an agricultural lease or a pastoral lease. As of June 30, 2020, there are 45,988 lease applications comprised of applications for residential, agricultural, and pastoral homesteads.
The infrastructure costs for developing DHHL’s raw landholdings into land suitable for homesteading averages $150,000 per lot. Lot development can take between six and eight years to complete after environmental compliance, archeological requirements, water source development, permitting, and construction. DHHL has received record-level funding from the Legislature since 2014, amounting to roughly $24 million a year for administrative and operational costs and $25 million for capital improvement projects, but the funding amounts are still short of the Department’s request of nearly $240 million annually.
The draft Legislative proposal, upon submission, would be reviewed by the Department of the Attorney General, the Department of Budget & Finance, and Governor David Ige for consideration in his Legislative packet. Should the Governor include the proposed measure in his packet, the draft Legislation would then proceed to be considered by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature. If the Governor chooses not to include it in his packet, the Department may seek a Legislator to introduce the proposal.
The Hawaiian Homes Commission is anticipated to vote on the proposal on Tuesday, December 22, 2020.