he committee also has decided not to hear a bill that would allow casinos on Hawaiian home lands, so lawmakers will likely not move any closer toward legalized gambling this session.
Hawaii and Utah are the only states that do not permit some form of gambling. House lawmakers, interested in hearing ideas for new revenue, had moved the two casino bills through preliminary committee review.
But opposition from law enforcement, business leaders, social service providers and religious groups made it difficult for lawmakers to proceed. The state Senate also was not inclined to advance the casino bills.
State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), the chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he wanted some of the newer lawmakers to hear the debate since it has been a decade since the state Legislature had looked carefully at gambling.
Last night, Oshiro reached for the lyrics of country singer Kenny Rogers to help explain his decision.
"You've got to know when to hold 'em. You've got to know when to fold 'em. You have to know when to walk away," he said. "And in this case, with the hand that we were dealt, it didn't make any sense moving ahead."
Some critics have suggested that even allowing the gambling bills to get as far as the House Finance Committee created a distraction from the tools lawmakers will likely use to close the deficit. On Tuesday night, for example, the committee agreed to repeal a host of general excise and use tax exemptions for business activities and impose a 1 percent GET tax on these activities to generate $100 million a year.
But Oshiro said it was worth having the discussion on gambling. "They got an opportunity to hear the pros and cons," he said of newer lawmakers.
State Rep. Gene Ward, R-17th (Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawai'i Kai), said he does not believe people in the Islands are prepared for legalized gambling.
"The last chips have just been taken off the table, from the Finance Committee point of view, and it's probably for the better," he said.