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Jackpot: Hawaiians Wins Big in Vegas as State Gambling Bill Dies

Posted on: February 10, 2023, 05:07h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2023, 05:30h.

This year seems to be an especially lucky time for Hawaiians visiting Las Vegas. Several people won big in recent weeks, as travel from Hawaii to Sin City continues to be popular.

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200
Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200, pictured above. Many Hawaiians fly to Las Vegas to play at casinos. (Image: Flickr)

On January 22, an unnamed player from Hawaii won more than $32K on the Ba Fang Jin Bao Abundant Fortunes slot machine at Las Vegas’ California Hotel and Casino, better known as The Cal.  A player who goes by the name “Lorraine” won more than $11K on New Year’s Day playing a Reel Hot slot machine, also at The Cal.

Hawaiians also won the following jackpots in Vegas in January:

  • “Liezel” won more than $15K while playing Dou Fu Duo Cai on a slot at The Cal.
  • “Orlando” won more than $10K while playing a Turtle Kingdom slot machine at Main Street.
  • A guest won more than $12K laying the Little Shop of Horrors slot machine.
  • Another guest won more than $12K while playing a 7 United Stars slot machine.
  • Main Street Station guest won more than $11K on a $5 spin a Dragon Link slot machine.
  • Fremont Hotel & Casino player 1.1 million won on a Wheel of Fortune slot.

Vegas Remains Popular Among Hawaiians

There may be so many recent Hawaiian winners because travel from Hawaii to Vegas is popular. Sometimes Vegas is sometimes called the “ninth island.”

That’s because Hawaii is one of just two states with no form of legalized wagering, including a lottery. Utah is the only other state. Hawaii’s proximity to Vegas (just a “short” six-hour flight) and relatively inexpensive fares make the Strip a popular destination for people living in Hawaii.

Approximately 300K passengers flew from Hawaii to Las Vegas in each of the last five years, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat citing data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority. The total in 2019, the year before the pandemic, was 335,488.

Hawaii residents made up a major percentage of guests at three Boyd Gaming Las Vegas properties in 2019. They booked 67% of occupied room nights at The Cal, 35% at the Fremont Hotel, and 46% at Main Street Station for that year.

Banning Ads, Gambling

But not all Hawaiians appreciate the lure of Vegas. One legislator from Hawaii is trying to ban Nevada casino operators from advertising in the Aloha state.

Sen. Stanley Chang (D), who proposed Senate Bill 935, wants fines for violators of the law. The bill specifically refers to Boyd Gaming. 

Legalizing gambling or sports betting on the islands isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Just two days ago, the latest bill to legalize sports betting in the state failed. Analysts estimate that a legal sports betting market could bring about $7 million a year.

One individual who recommended killing the bill was committee chair Rep. Daniel Holt (D).

“I think maybe at some point this may be a worthy cause for us. But at this point, $7 million a year may not be worth putting our communities at risk,” Holt told the committee during its session this week, as reported by Hawaii News Now.

Lost Revenue to Illegal Gambling

No legal sports betting in Hawaii might mean that illegal sports betting is rampant, according to some analytics.

Pat Gibbs, a lobbyist for the Sports Betting Alliance, recently told the House that “276,000 people bet a combined total of $670 million in illegal sports wagers each year in Hawaii, using bookies or offshore sites on their phones and computers.” That’s according to an Ernst and Young study.

But some legislators, like Hawaii Governor Josh Green (D), believe legalizing gambling would increase the number of people harmed by gambling.

According to House leaders, they won’t hear any more about legalizing gambling in the state this year.

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