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Gambling Laws In Hawaii

Lawbook With GavelIn general, Hawaii is not considered to be gambling friendly. While there are no laws in Hawaii that specifically outlaw online gambling for Hawaii residents, there is also no law that specifically legalizes it. Hawaii's legal position on gambling is clear and simple - gambling is not legal in the state. Hawaii gambling law defines gambling as betting something of value on a contest of chance.

A contest of chance refers to any game, contest, gaming device or gaming scheme, the result of which depends in a material degree on an element of chance, even if the skill of the contestants are a factor therein. Poker and casino games will be considered a contest of chance under HI gambling law.

It is a misdemeanor offense to engage in gambling. Knowingly participating or advancing a gambling activity can result in being charged with the offense of gambling. Advancing a gambling activity refers to conduct that which materially aids a gambling activity and includes

  • establishment or creation of a contest, device, game, scheme or activity
  • acquisition or maintenance of apparatus, equipment, paraphernalia or premises used for a gambling activity
  • solicitation or inducement of others to participate in gambling
  • actual conduct of the gambling activity
  • actual control over a place used for gambling activity
  • assistance with the financial, recording and other phases of the gambling activity.

While state based gambling in Hawaii may not be a possibility, there are no state or federal laws which prohibit residents and visitors to HI from participating in legally licensed and certified gambling sites which are located outside of the United States, within a region that has legalized online gambling. Many of these sites accept players from Hawaii and are often referred to as Hawaii online casinosHawaii online poker sites, and Hawaii online sports betting sites, despite the fact that they are not located in Hawaii. There are even Hawaii online bingo options available.

Quick Jump

    Social Gambling Laws in Hawaii

    Social gambling including bingo, raffles, home poker games and specific types of wagers on sporting events are legal subject to strict conditions. A home poker game must meet the following conditions:

    • all players must have an equal chance of winning
    • the game must be held in private residential setting
    • the home owner should not make a profit by allowing his home to be used for the game
    • the home owner cannot charge any entry fees or rake the pot
    • all players must be 18 or older
    • there must be no wagering on sporting events

    History of Gambling In Hawaii

    In 1778 when Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands, gambling was popular amongst the residents during the Makahiki festival from October to February. During the festival people could place bets on various games and contests. Even non-participant could place bets on the outcome of the contest. However the popularity of the festival declined over the years and in the 1800s, the American missionaries stopped betting on moral grounds. In August, 1825, the native chiefs met and placed a kapu (prohibition) upon gambling, vice, drunkenness, theft, and violation of the Sabbath.

    Hawaii is one of the few states without any legalized gambling activities. Given Hawaii's reliance on a tourist economy, the citizenry of Hawaii probably realized that any legalized gambling activities would severely injure the pre-existing tourist economy. There are no land based casinos in the state of Hawaii. Hawaii does not have a state lottery.

    Efforts To Legalize Gambling In HI

    Way back in 2010, the state considered a proposal to set up a stand alone casino in Waikiki but soon abandoned the idea. Legislators toyed with a similar idea about 11 years ago before rejecting it. In February 2010, the state House Finance Committee rejected a bill to allow casinos on Hawaiian home lands.

    In early 2011, there were hopes that the state would legalize poker. A bill was introduced seeking to define poker as a game of skill. This would make it exempt from the state gambling law. In March 2011 the bill made it past the Judiciary Committee but did not get a House Fiance Committee hearing. The bill apparently lacked the necessary public support to continue further and died.

    Efforts To Legalize Online Gambling In Hawaii

    Earlier this year, a group of state Senators introduced a bill seeking to legalize internet poker, lotteries and other casino games. The bill if passed would create the Hawaii Internet Lottery and Gaming Corporation to oversee gambling operations in the state. The Corporation would have 180 days to create a regulatory framework to regulate internet gaming operations. The bill is still pending, but could lead to state based Hawaii online poker options and expand selection for players who now rely on legal offshore poker rooms.

    Hawaii Gambling Laws Concerning Indian Tribal Lands

    Many states that specifically prohibit land based casinos allow Indian tribes in the state to set up casinos on reservations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But not Hawaii. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5–4 decision, held that the 11th Amendment bars Congress from authorizing suits by Indian tribes against states to enforce federal legislation that requires states to negotiate in good faith with Indian tribes toward tribal-state compacts governing gaming on Indian lands. Since only Utah and Hawaii prohibit all gambling without exception, only those states, under IGRA, could regulate gambling on tribal lands.

    Federal Laws Affecting Hawaii Online Gambling

    There are no federal laws which prohibit residents or visitors to Hawaii from participating in legally licensed online gambling. Some players mistakenly believe the UIGEA bill of 2006 makes it illegal for US residents to participate in online gambling, however this is not the case at all. The law in fact does not even address players but rather targets gambling site operators and payment processors to place regulatory oversight on how online gambling transactions are processed. This regulation keeps fraudulent and illegal financial practices out of the industry. In the recent 2011 Black Friday sting in which the DOJ launched an investigation into several prominent online poker sites, no players were investigated or targeted in the process. Those sites were suspected of not adhering to the regulations set forth in the UIGEA and hence were investigated accordingly. While players were inconvenienced for a time regarding access to their funds at these sites, no players were charged or punished in any way.

    Other federal laws that pertain to gambling in the US are the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and the Federal Wire Act.  PASPA prohibits the expansion of US based brick and mortar sportsbook gambling and does not impact online betting at all.  In 2011 the Department of Justice issued a formal opinion that clarified the application of the Federal Wire Act.  In their statement, they declared that the Federal Wire Act does indeed prohibit US based online gambling sites from operating within the United States, but that each individual state could determine their own destiny concerning state regulated online casino and poker gambling. Three states so far have created online gambling initiatives, including New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. Neither of these two federal laws prohibits US residents from engaging in legally sanctioned online gambling at offshore destinations that offer their services to American players, including those living in Hawaii. These laws do regulated where online gambling businesses can operate within the United States, but do not address the act of participating as a gambler.

    Hawaii Gambling Laws

    For those interested in reviewing Hawaii gambling laws in their original legislative context, you will find that information here: Hawaii Government Official Website. That link will take you to the official documents themselves.

    **This site is intended to serve as informational only and is not designed or equipped for providing legal services of any type. We are not lawyers and do not provide any type of legal advice, interpretation or services. If you are looking for a professional interpretation of any law or statute, we recommend you contact a licensed lawyer. If you are seeking legal services of any type, then we recommend you contact a lawyer. We cannot provide those services.

    HI Online Gambling Laws FAQS

    What Are the Consequences of Gambling in Hawaii?

    A charge of simple gambling in the state of Hawaii is a misdemeanor offense. For a misdemeanor offense in Hawaii, you can be charged up to $2,000 dollars in fines and be sentenced up to one year in the county jail.

    What is Social Gambling and is it Legal in HI?

    Social gambling is legal in the state of Hawaii. A social poker game, for instance, must be held in a person’s home or private, residential setting and operated without any fees or charges for the participants in the game. All of the participants must have an equal opportunity to win, be 18 years or older, and there must be no wagering on sporting events. The owner of the establishment cannot rake or take any percentage of the pot and must not make any profit other than that of his own winnings.

    Is There Any Legal Commercially Based Gambling in Hawaii?

    No, Hawaii has no state lottery and there are no brick and mortar casinos on the island. The popular idea is that gambling would hurt the tourism economy that Hawaii relies so heavily upon. Gambling was made illegal among other things in August of 1825 when the native chiefs placed a prohibition on it.

    Will Hawaii Legalize in the Future?

    The item of gambling on the legislation list in the state of Hawaii has come up multiple times in just the last 20 years. In 2010 Hawaii considered building a casino in Wakiki but the bill never reached the voters that it needed. There was another attempt to legalize poker in 2011 when a clever lawyer tried to introduce a bill that terms poker as a game of skill rather than a game of chance which would skirt the legal code of gambling in the state of Hawaii. The bill was reported to lack the necessary public support and it failed before it made it to a house finance committee hearing.

    Will Hawaii Legalize Online Gambling in the Future?

    Currently there is a bill pending in the state of Hawaii that would legalize internet casino games, lotteries, and poker. The bill works to create the proper regulatory bodies that companies that run these types of games require. It would create the Hawaii Internet lottery and Gaming Corporation which would regulate and license all internet gambling operations in the state. If the bill is passed the committee will have 180 days to get the infrastructure to regulate such games in order and ready to begin.

    Why Aren’t There Any Native Casinos in Hawaii?

    Hawaii is only one of two states that totally outlaws casinos even on the level of Native American lands. The state of Hawaii won a controversial decision in the U.S. Supreme Court that essentially prevented Indian tribes from enforcing the federal legislation that allows them right over their government sanctioned lands. Hawaii and Utah are the only states that prohibit gambling without exception and the only states that could regulate gambling on those Native American Lands according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.