Hawaii Is Newest State To Join Online Poker Race

There may be a lot of resistance to online gambling legislation on the federal level, but lately on the state level legislatures can’t seem to get their online poker proposals drafted fast enough. Thus far this year, we’ve discussed proposals in New Jersey, Iowa, Nevada, California and Florida. Now yet another state is considering online gambling as a means for filling their budget deficit.

Hawaii State Representative Angus McKelvey, a Democrat and also Chairman of the state’s Economic Revitalization and Business Committee, is spearheading the latest intrastate poker bill. It may seem like an unexpected move for a state that relies largely on live tourism, but the two-part proposal covers all of Hawaii’s bases with two unique stipulations.

First and foremost, Hawaii’s new poker proposal takes a two-pronged approach to bringing poker-related revenue into the state, but that doesn’t include offering online poker to the state’s own residents. McKelvey’s plan would allow online poker companies to operate inside the state and to offer their services to players around the world while simultaneously blocking access to Hawaiians.

The second part of the proposal aims to bring a major live poker tournament to Hawaii. Both the tournament and the online poker privileges would only be extended to one state-approved company which would be required to pay a one-time $100 million licensing fee plus a percentage of annual profits. That may sound like a lot of money, but Full Tilt Poker has already expressed interest in the deal.

Hawaii’s pending online poker proposal may sound like the most limited one yet, but it’s actually quite a leap for the somewhat conservative state. As of now, Hawaii doesn’t allow for any real money gambling inside the state, but recently state legislators determined that specific poker variations – namely Texas Hold’em and Omaha – are games of skill and not chance, opening the door for live poker competitions in the state. McKelvey’s bill has already received 7-1 approval from his own committee and 9-3 approval from the House Judiciary Committee and will now go before the House Finance Committee for a final vote before it goes to the floor of the state congress.

Proponents of the bill believe that it will bring a new kind of tourism to Hawaii while simultaneously giving the state government more control over citizens’ participation in illegal activity like online poker. Opponents of the bill argue that it opens the door to more predatory forms of gambling. The PPA’s executive director, John Pappas, has already chimed in to express his approval of the live tournament portion of the bill but was less supportive of Hawaii’s continued efforts to prevent residents from playing online poker.

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