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“Say no to Taxes, Say yes to a single casino in Waikiki”

The State is currently reeling from a serious economic situation, facing a $1.3 Billion deficit over the next several years and having few ideas on how to increase jobs and revenue – especially over the short term.  Citizens for a Better Way was formed by a group of friends who are worried about the future of our islands and who think raising the State’s General Excise Tax will make things only worse.  We need to create new industries and new jobs for the long term; and in the short term we need to improve those industries that currently support our economy and lives.  Tourism is our biggest industry and we feel that limited gambling will not harm Hawaii as some claim, but will instead generate more tourism dollars and jobs for our people.   Therefore, we support the following type of legislation.

The legislation should ensure that only one casino is opened in Waikiki;

The legislation should ensure that no less than 2,000 permanent new jobs are created for local residents;


The legislation should also ensure that local workers are used for the casino development and construction phase;


Operator of the casino should be selected through a competitive bidding process. Any corporation registered for that bidding process and selected as the winner should pay the State a $50-$60 million Impact Fee at the time the winning bidder is announced. These funds will thus immediately help Hawaii’s current economic situation within the next 7-8 months. Out of fairness, such funds can be credited towards future payments by the chosen Operator in years ahead;


Design of the casino should blend into the Waikiki district, and not stand out like a Las Vegas neon-light property;


The legislation should be written so that no single hotel, or hotel chain, will benefit from the casino because it will be stand alone. This should remain a part of any bill that is approved;


No one under the age of 21 should be allowed in the casino as a customer;


Legislation should include a provision that this would be the only casino allowed in Waikiki, thereby erasing fears of Hawaii becoming another Las Vegas. It’s highly unlikely that people will fly to Hawaii just to gamble anyway – they will come for the unique things Hawaii has to offer, like our culture, weather, beaches and scenery. But once here tourists do need nighttime entertainment, and right now there is very little to do in Waikiki after the sun goes down.


Finally, in addition to the initial Impact Fee, the State must receive a fair market financial return in the nature of a gross revenue tax on gaming revenues for allowing the single casino to operate. A Gross Gambling Percentage Tax, along with personal income taxes on the new casino employees, should add up to at least $100 million per year for the state.

In short, the single casino should be no more than an entertainment amenity that primarily targets our off-island visitors and secondarily allows entry to local residents who can afford to gamble.   This could help provide many new jobs, generate increased occupancy for the hotels, give tourists something more to do in Waikiki at night and generate new revenue for our government, thereby saving current jobs and programs. It is certainly better than a General Excise Tax increase

Like it or not, legalized casino gambling has become part of the worldwide tourism market. More and more, people travel to destinations that are considered safe and exotic, like Hawaii, to enjoy the local culture and physical environment. But such travelers also desire something to do in the evening hours. Two recent studies, conducted by independent organizations have shown that Japanese, Korean and Chinese visitors to the islands favor the establishment of casino gambling in Waikiki, so long as such casino is just another entertainment amenity. If we limit Waikiki to only one casino and not market Hawaii as a “gambling destination,” then Honolulu would be similar to Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, London or Monaco. All of those cities benefit financially from one or two casinos. None are known as gambling destinations, like Las Vegas or Macau; and none have experienced a big increase in crime, as some people fear would happen.

The Legislature should review the gambling study that was conducted by the U.S. Congress several years ago. That study was impartial, included participants from both sides of the issue and reached reasonable conclusions. The single, stand-alone facility as proposed in this legislation matches the recommendations made by that Congressional study.

If you have any questions please contact :
Chairperson Liz Watanabe,