A state lawmaker wants to bring slot machines to Honolulu International Airport.
Rep. Cindy Evans (D-North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) introduced a bill Friday that would provide slot machines for departing international passengers.
Her goal is to bring in revenue for the state while entertaining travelers.
“It would be a concession for renting space. It would be a business similar to a restaurant at the airport. Department of Transportation would be the manager,” she explained.
The machines would be called “amusement concessions” and be located in secured areas of the airport.
But there is a catch. In order for passengers to use the slot machines, they would have to show their ticket to prove they’re traveling outside the U.S.
The proposal wouldn’t impact Las Vegas or other mainland casinos. Only travelers with an international ticket would be allowed to play, similar to Duty Free shops.
So where the would the revenue go?
“One that I’m proposing is that 85 percent of the bet revenue goes to the state, so the concessions coming in know they only get 15 percent after their operational costs,” said Evans.
The concession would also be responsible for any payout or winnings, so that the state would not liable.
Evans anticipates the machines could generate millions for the state, and that money would go into the airport revenue fund to modernize and repair facilities.
But not everyone supports the proposal.
“After a while, say, ‘Well this doesn’t cause any damage, so let’s just expand.’ So we would just see that as a very dangerous start to something that would grow and so we wouldn’t support that either,” said Rev. John Heidel of The Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii.
Travelers we spoke to had mixed reactions.
“I think that would be good because right now, it all goes to Nevada,” said Liliha resident Pat Farwell. “It’s something to look at. Like originally, I’m from Canada and we have casinos all over. Some of the cities have four, five and six casinos.”
“Personally, I don’t think I would like that because I didn’t think it’s conducive to Hawaii. I just feel like that’s something that Las Vegas is good for, but wouldn’t really be matching for the islands,” said Aina Haina resident Priscilla Ligh.
House Bill 91 was introduced and passed its first reading, but still faces an uphill battle.
Evans hopes for a public hearing to get input from the community.