The gambling outlook in Hawaii

Hawaii, the Aloha State, stands tall as America's iron horse in the race against gambling. The state's unwavering stance against the glitz and glamor of casinos, the adrenaline rush of sports betting, and the convenience of online platforms is as solid as a rock. The only chink in the armor? Social poker games, allowed under a tight leash.

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📖 Published on: June 15th, 2023

✍️ Updated: 3 months ago

⏳ 24 mins read

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Despite the golden goose that gambling could be for the economy, Hawaii has been playing hardball, batting away attempts to introduce it. Proposed bills have been left in the dust, failing to rally the troops. The state's unique position as an island paradise, coupled with a rich tapestry of culture, has led to a cautious dance around gambling. The laws are designed like a safety net, shielding residents from the potential fallout.The chatter continues, and the economic benefits are becoming harder to sweep under the rug. We might see the tide turn in the future. But for now, Hawaii remains a tough nut to crack for the gambling industry.

Hawaii gambling laws and regulations

Since stepping onto the stage as a state in 1959, Hawaii has held a poker face when it comes to gambling. The state's laws are as tight as a drum, banning nearly all forms of betting and earning it a reputation as one of the toughest nuts to crack in the country.Over the years, lawmakers have tried to play their cards right, dealing out bills to legalize various forms of gambling. But these efforts have been like trying to hit a home run in a thunderstorm, resulting in no significant changes to Hawaii's gambling laws as we stand in 2023.

 

What is considered as legal gambling

In Hawaii, the gambling scene is as thin as a razor's edge, thanks to the state's no-nonsense laws. The only game you can play without crossing the line is social poker, but even this is like walking a tightrope. These games must be held in the cozy confines of a private home, with every player having a fair shake at winning. No player can rake in a windfall or lose their shirt in a single bet, and no one can make a quick buck for playing host.This means the games are all about the thrill of the chase, with no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for any of the players. Even hawking soda or sandwiches during these games could be seen as stepping on the law's toes. Beyond these social poker games, all other forms of gambling are a no-go. This includes casinos, sports betting, online gambling, and even social games with a whiff of chance. As we stand in 2023, the laws remain as firm as a rock, and Hawaii continues to be one of the last holdouts in the U.S. where almost all forms of gambling are a non-starter.

 

What is considered as illegal gambling

In Hawaii, the gambling scene is as barren as a desert, thanks to the state's hard-nosed laws. The long arm of the law reaches both land-based and online casinos, sports betting, horse racing, lottery games, and daily fantasy sports. Even social games that roll the dice on chance, like bingo and raffles, are off-limits unless they're part of a charity shindig.Online gambling, including dabbling in offshore online casinos, is also a red flag. This includes online sportsbooks and any form of digital betting. The state's laws also slam the door on the operation of online gambling platforms, making it a no-fly zone for any company looking to offer these services to Hawaii's residents.Moreover, Hawaii doesn't have any tribal casinos up its sleeve. Unlike many other U.S. states, Hawaii hasn't played ball with its native tribes to negotiate any gaming compacts, making tribal casinos a non-starter.Even casinos that float their boat, which are technically not on Hawaiian soil, are a no-go under the state's gambling laws. In a nutshell, any gambling activity that involves putting your money or anything of value on the line on an event with an uncertain outcome is a one-way ticket to trouble in Hawaii.

 

Legal age to gamble in Hawaii

In Hawaii, the idea of a legal gambling age is as useful as a chocolate teapot, thanks to the state's tough-as-nails laws against most forms of gambling. With nearly all types of gambling being as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party, there's no official age at which folks can start placing their bets.The only loophole in the state's wide net of gambling prohibition is social poker games. These games, which must be tucked away in private homes and can't involve any cash changing hands or profit-making, get the green light under Hawaiian law. However, even for these games, there's no specific age carved in stone in the legislation.In practice, it's generally understood that players in these social poker games should be at least 18, in step with the age of majority in Hawaii. This isn't a legal must-have, but more of a gentleman's agreement based on the idea that players should be adults.It's worth noting that any attempts to rope minors into gambling activities, even social poker games, could be a hot potato, potentially leading to legal fallout under laws designed to protect the young ones. As always, it's paramount to play by the rules and put the well-being of all players first.

Real money casinos in Hawaii

In Hawaii, real money casinos are as rare as hen's teeth. The state's ironclad gambling laws make it one of the last frontiers in the U.S. where legal casinos, whether brick-and-mortar or online, are as elusive as a unicorn. This includes tribal casinos, which are a common sight in many other states thanks to federal laws that let Native American tribes run casinos on their turf.Online casinos, even those sailing under foreign flags, are also a no-no in Hawaii. The state's laws pull no punches in banning all forms of online gambling, and this includes any games where real money changes hands or can be won. This means that Hawaii's residents can't legally try their luck at casino games for real money on any online platform.

The ban on real money casinos also throws a wet blanket on shipboard or floating casinos. Even though these casinos aren't anchored on Hawaiian soil, they're still in the crosshairs of the state's gambling laws.In a nutshell, any form of casino gaming where real money is on the line is a red card in Hawaii.Hawaii Casino

 

Online casinos

Online casinos in Hawaii are as welcome as a rattlesnake at a square dance, with the lone exception being social poker games. This includes both homegrown and offshore online casinos. The state's laws draw a hard line in the sand against all forms of online gambling, making it a legal minefield for Hawaii's residents to engage in online casino games where real money is up for grabs.This ban covers the whole nine yards of casino games, from slots and poker to blackjack and roulette. Despite the tidal wave of online gambling sweeping across the U.S., Hawaii's laws have stood their ground. Any attempts to set up an online casino shop within the state or to peddle such services to Hawaiian residents would be skating on thin ice with these laws.

 

Shipboard and floating casinos

In Hawaii, shipboard or floating casinos find themselves up the creek without a paddle. Even though these casinos aren't moored on Hawaiian land, they can't dodge the bullet. The state's gambling laws still put a spanner in the works. This means that even if you're bobbing in international waters off the Hawaiian coast, don't bet your boots on legally gambling on these floating casinos. The arm of Hawaiian law is long enough to reach these offshore establishments, leaving them out in the cold. So, whether you're on terra firma or navigating the briny deep, Hawaii's resolute 'no' to gambling is as steady as a rock.

 

Tribal casinos

Tribal casinos in Hawaii are as rare as rocking horse droppings. The state's gambling laws cast a wide net, covering all corners of the state, including lands inhabited by Native American tribes. Breaking from the pack, Hawaii hasn't sat down at the negotiation table to hammer out any gaming compacts with its native tribes.

 

Racinos

Racinos, which are venues that combine race tracks with casinos, are not present in Hawaii due to the state's strict gambling laws.Pari-mutuel betting, a staple at racinos, is also a non-starter in the Aloha State. So, if you're looking to place your bets on a horse while spinning the roulette wheel, you're barking up the wrong tree in Hawaii.

 

Land-based casinos

Land-based casinos in Hawaii are as scarce as hen's teeth, making it one of the last holdouts in the U.S. without any casino establishments. The state's laws are tighter than a drum, covering all forms of casino gaming, whether they're run by private outfits or Native American tribes.Unlike many other states, Hawaii hasn't played ball with its native tribes to negotiate any gaming compacts, leaving it devoid of tribal casinos. This bucks the trend, as tribal casinos are a big player in the gambling scene across the U.S.The ban on land-based casinos also throws a wet blanket on shipboard or floating casinos. Even though these casinos aren't anchored on Hawaiian soil, they're still in the crosshairs of the state's gambling laws. This means that any form of casino gaming, whether on terra firma or the high seas, is a non-starter in Hawaii.The lack of land-based casinos in Hawaii is a testament to the state's long-standing policy of keeping most forms of gambling at arm's length. Despite the potential cash cow of casino tourism, Hawaii has chosen to stick to its guns, maintaining its tough gambling laws to safeguard its residents and uphold its cultural ethos.

Off-track betting

As David Hill, a renowned journalist in the gambling industry, I'd put it this way:

Simulcast racing or off-track betting, where punters place their bets on horse races happening in far-flung locations, is a non-starter in Hawaii. This blanket ban covers all forms of sports betting, whether the horses are thundering down the track in-state, out-of-state, or on foreign soil.

Racinos, those hybrid venues that mix the thrill of the race track with the glitz of a casino, are as rare as a blue moon in Hawaii, thanks to the state's ironclad gambling laws. Pari-mutuel betting, where bettors go head-to-head instead of taking on the house, is also off the table.

Simulcast racing, which beams horse races from different tracks to facilitate off-track betting, is also a no-go in Hawaii. This means that Hawaii's residents can't legally have a flutter on horse races happening elsewhere.

There have been several shots at legalizing pari-mutuel betting and horse racing in Hawaii over the years, but none have managed to clear the hurdles in the legislative process.

Sports betting

Sports betting in Hawaii is as welcome as a snowball in July. Despite the tidal wave of sports betting sweeping across the U.S., Hawaii stands as one of the last holdouts where it's a no-go. There have been attempts to change the game with bills to legalize sports betting, but they've been spinning their wheels without gaining much ground.

Hawaii Betting

Social casinos

Social casinos, where folks can try their hand at casino-style games without putting any real money on the line, are on the right side of the law in Hawaii. These platforms deal out games like slots, blackjack, video poker, and roulette. While players can't cash in their chips for money, they can bag prizes through sweepstakes run by these platforms.

Poker games can also shuffle up and deal in Hawaii, but only if they're friendly games with no cash changing hands. These games can't set up shop in commercial properties, and no one can line their pockets from them.

Daily fantasy sports

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) in Hawaii are currently in the same boat as other forms of gambling in the state - they're off-limits. However, the winds of change could be blowing for DFS in Hawaii. State Representative Angus McKelvey has been beating the drum for DFS legalization, arguing that it's a game of skill, not a roll of the dice, and shouldn't be lumped in with gambling.In 2016, then-Attorney General Doug Chin threw a spanner in the works by declaring all DFS to be gambling, making it a no-go in the state.

McKelvey has fired back with a resolution that could flip the script on DFS, redefining it as skill-based and therefore fair game. His endgame is to reel in more tourists who currently hit a brick wall when trying to access their DFS apps in Hawaii.Several big fish in the sportsbook pond, including DraftKings and FanDuel, are champing at the bit to offer DFS in Hawaii, but they're holding their horses while the Attorney General's opinion holds sway. If McKelvey's resolution hits the bullseye, it could turn the tide and open the floodgates for the DFS market in Hawaii.

Bingo

Bingo, a game that's often the life of the party at charitable events and social gatherings, doesn't get a free pass in Hawaii's tough-as-nails gambling laws. The state's rulebook doesn't cut Bingo any slack, even when it's all in the name of charity. This means that both brick-and-mortar and online Bingo games where money changes hands or can be won are a no-go in Hawaii.

The state's hard line against gambling covers all bases, including games of chance like Bingo. This ban is in step with Hawaii's long-standing game plan to shield its residents from the potential pitfalls of gambling. Despite Bingo's popularity in many corners of the U.S. and its potential to be a cash cow for charitable organizations, Hawaii has stuck to its guns and kept the ban on Bingo.

At the moment, the rulebook hasn't budged, and it's still against the law to run or take part in Bingo games for money in Hawaii. This covers all bases, from traditional Bingo games to newfangled versions of the game, like electronic and online Bingo.

Poker

Poker in Hawaii is a bit like a square peg in a round hole. While the state generally gives the cold shoulder to all forms of gambling, it does tip its hat to home poker games. This is dubbed "social gambling" and gets the green light as long as the game is held in a home setting and no one's passing the hat or charging fees to play. This exception has been part of Hawaii's playbook since 1973.

However, any form of online poker where real money is in play is a red flag in Hawaii. There are no legal online poker sites in the state, and any site claiming otherwise is barking up the wrong tree. The only potential loophole for online poker play in Hawaii is through sweepstakes sites, which are on the right side of the law in Hawaii because they're classified as sweepstakes, not gambling.

In 2020, a bill was put on the table to set up a State Poker Commission to keep an eye on live poker in the state. However, this bill was put on the back burner in committee in February 2021. As it stands, the only legal way to play poker in Hawaii is through home games. Any attempts to broaden the horizons for poker, whether online or live, have hit a brick wall.

Gambling tips

Given the strict gambling laws in Hawaii, it's essential to understand what is and isn't allowed before participating in any gambling activities. Here are a few pieces of advice for those residing in or visiting the state of Hawaii:

 

Crack the code

Hawaii has the toughest gambling laws this side of the Mississippi. Nearly all forms of gambling, from online casinos to sports betting and horse racing, are off-limits. The one exception is social gambling, where it's player versus player, not player versus the house, and nobody's raking in the dough except for personal winnings.

 

Socialize wisely

If you're itching for some social gambling, make sure it's a hush-hush affair in a private setting, and nobody's cashing in except through their wins. That means no one can play middleman and charge a fee for joining in the fun, and selling food or drinks for profit is a big no-no.

 

Stay offline

The siren call of online gambling might be hard to resist, but resist you must. It's a no-go in Hawaii, whether it's a domestic or offshore online casino. Dabbling in online gambling could land you in hot water.

 

Hit the Road

If you're a local with a hankering for a little gambling action, think about taking a trip to a state where it's all above board. States like Nevada and New Jersey have a buffet of legal gambling options.

 

Eyes Peeled

Laws can change faster than the weather in Hawaii, so keep an ear to the ground for any updates on the gambling front. While some folks have tried to loosen the reins on certain forms of gambling, they've come up empty-handed so far, as of 2023.

When in doubt, play it safe and steer clear of anything that might raise a red flag. You don't want to be caught in a game of chance with the law.

The history

The story of gambling in Hawaii reads like a tale of ironclad rules and an unyielding commitment to keep the chips off the table. Since becoming a part of the United States in 1959, Hawaii has stood firm against gambling, closing the curtains on its once-thriving horse racing industry, which was launched by King David Kalakaua in 1872.Despite the strict ban, underground gambling activities still have a pulse in Hawaii. The American Gaming Association estimates that a staggering 276,000 Hawaiians get in on the action, chipping in for an estimated $669 million in illicit bets each year.

In a twist of fate, the only glimmer of hope for gamblers comes in the form of home poker games, tagged as "social gambling." This rare exception has been in play since 1973, giving the green light to poker games held in private settings, as long as no one's throwing cash into the pot for participation.When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it shuffled the deck and stirred discussions about possibly shaking up Hawaii's gambling laws, with the state facing an economic rough patch due to the downturn in tourism. However, as we stand in 2023, no major changes have been made, and Hawaii still stands tall as one of the few states in the U.S. without a single chip on the gambling table.

 

The future

The crystal ball for gambling in Hawaii remains clouded with uncertainty. While the state's gambling laws stand tall and strong, there have been some bold attempts to shake up the game and introduce legislation that would greenlight various forms of gambling, from online sports betting to horse racing. But as of now, these efforts have hit a wall.In 2022, State Representatives John Mizuno and Chris Todd tried their luck with bills HB 1815 and HB 1973, both aiming to bring online sportsbooks into the spotlight. The Mizuno bill aimed to set up the Online Sports Wagering Corporation to oversee sports betting, while the Todd bill passed the buck to the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to handle the game. Sadly, both bills folded before gaining any momentum.

The tough gambling laws in Hawaii don't cut any slack for horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports apps either; they're still sitting on the bench. Over time, there have been a few attempts to kick-start pari-mutuel betting and horse racing in Hawaii, but none have crossed the finish line in the legislative race.But here's the kicker—the chorus of legislators backing bills to open the gates for online sportsbooks suggests that change might just be knocking at the door. Yet, it's crucial to keep in mind that any significant changes to Hawaii's gambling laws are likely to face fierce opposition and a marathon of a legislative process. As we hang in 2023, Hawaii is still holding its ground as one of the few states in the U.S. without a glimmer of legalized gambling.

Responsible gaming in Hawaii

Responsible gaming in Hawaii takes center stage, given the state's firm grip on stringent laws and regulations. With its unwavering stance against gambling, including the nix on both online and land-based casinos, Hawaii is dead-set on safeguarding its residents from any gambling-related woes.

Despite lacking specific programs for promoting responsible gaming, the state's commitment to protecting its citizens from potential harm is clear. Since most forms of gambling are illegal, there are no state-run initiatives or requirements for gambling operators to provide resources for responsible gaming, as there are no legal gambling operators in the state.

Yet, for those facing challenges with problem gambling or looking out for someone in need, there's still hope. National and international organizations stand tall, offering a helping hand with resources like hotlines, counseling services, and self-help tools. The likes of the National Council on Problem Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous, and Gam-Anon are among the forces at play.

Though most gambling is a no-go, social casinos provide a glimmer of entertainment without the wagering and real-money wins. But it's crucial for players to keep their eyes peeled for the potential risks and use these platforms responsibly.

In the land of aloha, responsible gaming is more than just a buzzword—it's a vital value upheld to protect the well-being of all.

FAQ

Is online gambling permitted in Hawaii?

Online gambling is a no-go in Hawaii. The state's strict gambling laws put the kibosh on all forms of online betting, whether it's domestic or offshore platforms. So, if you're in the Aloha State, you won't find any legal online gambling options.

What measures does Hawaii take to regulate online gambling platforms?

Hawaii doesn't dance around when it comes to online gambling regulation, simply because it's not allowed in the first place. The state's stringent laws prohibit any online gambling activities, leaving no room for regulation.

If I'm in Hawaii, can I use a VPN to access online gambling sites?

While it might sound like a sneaky move, using a VPN won't change the game in Hawaii. The state's gambling laws stay rock-solid, and trying to access online gambling sites through a VPN won't make it any more legal.

Are there any online casinos that operate legally within Hawaii?

Here's the deal-in Hawaii, there are no legal online casinos to roll the dice with. The state's strict gambling laws apply both on land and in the digital realm, so you won't find any legal online casinos operating within the Aloha State.

Author
Katarina Oakshore
Editor | Casinos and Gambling