If you’re looking for live or online gambling, Hawaii isn’t the state for you. Lawmakers have held a strict anti-gambling policy here since statehood in 1959. In practice, this means virtually all forms of betting, including online gaming in Hawaii, sports betting, casino gaming and daily fantasy, are all prohibited. The only exception to this rule is poker, but these games can only be social in nature, with no money changing hands.
Although the Aloha State has held its anti-gambling position since it was integrated into the Union, this doesn’t mean things can’t change. Just as other regions have seen the benefits of live and online gambling, legislators in Hawaii have explored possible regulation over the past decade. But for now, nothing has materialized and all forms of betting are banned.
Given its late arrival into the union, Hawaii hasn’t followed the same historical trends as the mainland.
In other words, Hawaii missed out on things such as the rise of pari-mutuel betting in the 1930s, national lottery regulation in the 1970s and the advent of tribal casino gaming in the 1980s. Hawaii remains very much isolated when it comes to gambling laws and innovations.Despite this dynamic, early lawmakers did try to legalize horse racing in 1959. However, the bill never made it through the House of Representatives.
For Hawaii online gambling advocates, SB677 is the bill to watch. Introduced by Sen. Michelle Kidani, the bill aims to establish a governing body that would oversee online gambling in Hawaii and allocate funds to schools and rural projects. It still hasn't gained much traction in the statehouse.
Anyone interested in this bill’s development should track the following: SB677 - Internet Gambling; Hawaii Internet Lottery and Gambling Corporation. But for now, Hawaii gambling is still a long ways away.
Another gambling measure, HB1107, which was introduced in 2019, would also seek to expand gambling, including sports betting. It faces a similar uphill challenge in the traditionally gambling averse state.
Given that live casinos, even those located on ships off the coast, are banned, it’s hardly surprising that online casinos in Hawaii are illegal. However, if any of the bills being reviewed in 2018 is successful, it could have a domino effect that ends with lawmakers giving Hawaii online casinos the green light.
Residents can play poker in Hawaii, but only for fun. As per the constitution, social poker games are legal but there are strict rules in place. Firstly, they can’t be held in commercial properties such as hotels or bars. Secondly, no one can make a profit, not even a host selling food and beverages. Because of this strict stance against real money gaming, online poker in Hawaii isn’t legal yet. Although there could be scope for free-play Hawaiian online poker sites in the future, nothing has been written into the legislation.
Despite a cursory effort to legalize betting on horses back in 1959, Hawaii has been as tough on this form of gambling as any other. In fact, if you look at the active bills for 2018, Hawaii sports betting laws aren’t on the list. However, this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. With the Supreme Court overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018, pro-gambling politicians in the state may introduce a Hawaiian sports betting bill in 2019, though that remains a long shot.