Hawaiian gambling laws are as restrictive as any in the United States. In fact, only one state can match Hawaii for its comprehensive ban on gambling: Utah. Both states have 100% prohibition of gambling. In Hawaii, people cannot legally gamble in casinos, sportsbooks, bingo halls, or race tracks. Online casinos and card rooms are undoubtedly banned. No form of gambling is legal.
Interestingly, the chance that Hawaii might one day legalize online gambling seems much greater than the same prospect in Utah. Unlike Utah, Hawaiian lawmakers sometimes have sponsored bills to legalize Internet gambling, such as Michelle Kidani’s Senate Bill 677 in 2018. Those measures never have gotten much traction, but it indicates that realistic politicians believe in the possibility. For the time being, though, Hawaiian gambling laws ban all forms of gaming.
712-1220 et seq.: What Is Gambling?
“Staking or risking something of value upon outcome of a contest of chance or uncontrollable future contingent event in order to receive something of value.”
“Gambling on Ships: Gambling aboard ships illegal. Possession of gambling devices, e.g. slot machines, illegal.”
“Gambling Paraphernalia and Gambling Promotion: Possession of gambling records, promoting gambling, bookmaking, illegal. Social gambling permitted as long as not committed in a hotel, motel, bar, nightclub, or any business establishment or public place. Must be of majority age.”
Gambling is defined as staking something of value on a contest of chance. Hawaii’s laws place a lot of emphasis on gambling paraphernalia. Casino cruises are rendered illegal because it is illegal to have slot machines and other gambling devices on a ship, whether gambling is taking place on the ship or not. Social gaming is legal, though it is barred from hotels, bars, and nightclubs.
Hawaii Revised Statutes 712-1220: Gambling Offenses
“‘Contest of chance’ means any contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.”
“‘Gambling’. A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. Gambling does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, including but not limited to contracts for the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, and agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance, including but not limited to contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health, or accident insurance.”
“‘Bookmaking’ means advancing gambling activity by accepting bets from members of the public upon the outcomes of future contingent events.”
Hawaii’s latest laws on gambling set out definitions for bookmaker, contests of chance, and general gambling. As you might imagine, every conceivable form of gambling is banned. If it has a “material degree upon an element of chance”, the game is considered gambling. Skill games like darts and billiards are legal, though.
Advancing Gambling Activity
“A person ‘advances gambling activity’ if he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity. Conduct of this nature includes but is not limited to conduct directed toward the creation or establishment of the particular game, contest, scheme, device, or activity involved, toward the acquisition or maintenance of premises, paraphernalia, equipment, or apparatus therefor, toward the solicitation or inducement of persons to participate therein, toward the actual conduct of the playing phases thereof, toward the arrangement of any of its financial or recording phases, or toward any other phase of its operation.”
Almost anyone involved in a gambling den’s operation is considered to have “advanced gambling activity”. That means the manager of the operation, but also the person who owns the building in which the gambling takes place. It’s an important distinction, because in other jurisdictions, landlords have claimed (sometimes with justification) they had no idea their tenant was operating an illegal gambling den. Hawaii doesn’t give much leeway to landlords.
No. Gambling is illegal throughout the state of Hawaii. The statutes say that Hawaiians take a stand against gambling because they want to uphold the morality of the Hawaiian Islands and because gambling leads to social problems. In short, Hawaii’s leaders have taken a moral stand against gambling in any form.
Dianne Kay, then-acting president of the Hawaii Coalition Against Gambling (HCAG) said, “It would be sad if we destroyed the beautiful ambiance we have here.” Despite that, back in 2011, Liz Watanabe of Citizens for a Better Way said, “We’re saying this is an option that exists right now. This is something we need to look at seriously because it will generate money and jobs now.”
That was during the global recession. With the worst economic times behind them, Hawaiian lawmakers no longer put forward several bills every year. In fact, Hawaiian State Representatives Chris Lee and Sean Quinlan launched a campaign against video game loot boxes in November 2017, even calling Star Wars: Battlefront a “Star Wars-themed online casino.”
Meanwhile, the Honolulu Police Department has launched a series of high-profile raids on illegal gambling establishments over the past 5 years. It doesn’t help that Hawaiian officials have been caught involved in illegal gambling in the past. In September 2017, Bradley Chiba of the Kauai Police Commission was arrested for running an illegal slot machine operation.
No. Senate Bill 677 proposed to legalize online gambling in Hawaii, but it failed to gain traction in the 2017 legislative session. State Senator Michelle Kidani’s bill was the latest in a series of Hawaii online poker bills, but nothing ever came of them.
It is obvious that Hawaiians enjoy online gambling. We can know that because a variety of illegal online gambling rings have been busted over the past ten years. One illegal bookmaker took bets the way a traditional bookie would, then placed those wagers on an online bookmaker’s site. Though the bookie (later caught) charges an outrageous 20% vig on the betting, he sustained a large-scale sports gambling operation — a sure sign that bettors want to gamble in Hawaii.
No. Michelle Kidani and State Rep. Will Espero brought companion bills to the floor of the Hawaiian Senate and House in 2017, but neither bill gained widespread support. Kidani, Espero, Gilbert Keith-Agaran, and several other colleagues introduced the bills because it was known that the US Supreme Court was going to hear New Jersey’s sports betting case in December 2017. That led to the repeal of a federal ban on sports betting by the Supreme Court.
With that in mind, several familiar with Hawaiian state politics have predicted a sports betting law which would legalized, license, regulate, and tax sportsbooks. How that might happen without land-based casinos is another matter, though Hawaii might use betting kiosks the way Washington DC plans to do. For the time being, though, sports betting and daily fantasy sports do not appear to be on the table.
No. Hawaii has no land-based casinos. Though the tourism and leisure industry would be boosted by such gaming attractions, Hawaii’s resorts do not offer casino gambling.
No. Hawaii does not have legal betting tracks or pari-mutuel wagering.
No. Hawaii also does not have off-track betting facilities (OTBs) or simulcasting. You’ll have to fly to the mainland to enjoy OTB betting.
No. Despite charitable gambling being considered one of the least offensive forms of gambling, because it funds charities, churches, and civic organizations, it still remains illegal to gamble in bingo halls in Hawaii.
Yes. Social casino sites do not involve real money gambling, so playing free-to-play casino games on Facebook is legal. Players will find sites social games like Zynga, Double Down Casino, Slotomania, and Big Fish Games to be legal in Hawaii. Players can also download an Android or iOS social casino app.
Private card games among friends is considered legal. Social gaming in which a rake or a fee is not charged is legal. If you try to make a profit off your weekly poker game, you’ll be busted. Social games are banned if they take place in a Hawaiian bar, hotel, or restaurant.