January 24, 2015

Slot machines coming to Hawaii’s airports if local pol gets her way

Slot machines are coming to Hawaii‘s airports if a local politician gets her way. State Rep. Cindy Evans has introduced a bill to allow passengers flying out of Hawaii the option of spinning a few reels after their planes are delayed.

HB 91 authorizes “the implementation of amusement concessions to provide slot machines at state airports for departing passengers.” Basically, duty-free slots. To play, you have to provide evidence that you’re over 21 years of age and scheduled to fly beyond US borders within the next 12 hours.

Interested operators have to apply for an ‘amusement concession’ license for an as yet undetermined fee. The state gets an 86% chunk of net revenue – gross revenue minus taxes, winnings, salaries, airport fees and rent – or a minimal annual guarantee, whichever’s bigger. The state’s cut would go into an airport improvement fund.

The bill expressly does not authorize online gambling, electronic bingo or other forms of gambling. Slots it is and these slots will be limited to secure areas of the airport. No slots can be visible to airport passers-by and operators aren’t allowed to advertise their wares in Hawaii by any means. Presumably the designated area will be labeled as such on airport maps.

If passed (doubtful), the act would take effect on July 1. Hawaii and Utah are the last bastions of non-gambling in the United States but Evans said this was a “very unique and different” way to help the state’s aging airports, an “out of the box” proposal.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has already said it won’t support any gambling measure. The HTA issued a statement saying gambling “would not enhance our destination brand, but rather dilute it and distract from” the state’s traditional charms.

Evans has voted against previous gambling proposals but said this plan mainly targeted departing tourists and was therefore “not about gambling in Hawaii.” Evans told HawaiiNewsNow her bill would allow visitors to Hawaii “in their last few hours, spend their money in Hawaii and leave their money in Hawaii.”

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