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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Hawaii and Maryland Introduce Gambling Bills to State Legislatures

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The idea is catching on. In the last several months of 2009 and the first of 2010, more and more states are considering gaming options as revenue streams for their states. Suddenly, ideological opposition to various topics related to gambling are falling by the wayside as states realize that their budgets depend on finding new sources of income, and gambling is a viable and profitable option. Delaware was the most recent and quickest state to act, creating a law to authorize table games in statewide casinos.

It came to light on February 4 that Hawaii is ready to examine the issue. Currently, the state has no legalized gambling according to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, but that may soon change. According to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, House Bill 2759 passed through the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and is now in the process of being scheduled for hearings in two more committees.

H.B. 2759 looks to amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and allow Hawaiian homelands to operate casinos under the oversight of a new gaming commission in the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The legalized gaming would raise revenue - 80 percent for the Hawaiian Homelands Trust and 20 percent for the state. Testimony was recorded in the first hearing as to the jobs it would create in addition to the revenue for the state and native Hawaiians who are in need of homes in their native land. A study showed that two proposed casinos could generate $712 million per year and create 4,000 new jobs.

Rep. Mele Carroll introduced the bill and commented, “I think when we have these economic hard times, things like this that people don’t want to touch because of politics, I think it’s a great opportunity… I think homesteaders have a right to this discussion, instead of just the policymakers making the decision, because there are great models in the U.S. I’m also looking at it from a standpoint of reinvestment in our community. Gambling is part of our culture… I’m not a gambler, but I see so many benefits in some of the tribes, and it’s because of their leadership.”

The second state to look at the gaming issue, and this time poker in particular, is Maryland. During the first week of February, H.B. 608 was introduced to the Maryland legislature to amend the state’s constitution in a way that would allow establishments in the state, ones who currently hold video lottery licenses, to offer table games like poker and blackjack.

Maryland is another state looking for additional sources of revenue. In particular, the state’s education fund needs assistance and could benefit greatly from such a proposal. While the governor has officially stated that he is not currently in favor of the legislation, members of the legislature have decided to take it under consideration. If it goes forward, the bill would be put to the residents of the state via a referendum on the November ballot.

One of the major issues at stake is the fact that surrounding states are implementing table games in casinos that already host slot machines. Revenue streams are being discovered in those states, leaving Maryland essentially out of the game. According to the Baltimore Sun, Commissioner D. Bruce Poole said, “It is apparent we are well behind the curve. We are running catch-up with other states.”

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