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As a perennial picture-perfect vacation destination halfway between Asia and the Americas, Hawaii seems like an ideal location for a world-class gambling operation. Indeed, few years have passed in recent memory without some proposal to expand gambling in the islands.

This year sees a bill to add Hawaii to the list of states with Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries, as well as a constitutional amendment proposal to allow video poker and slot machines in Oahu.

Both proposals are expected to engender heated debate, but the economic pressures of the past few years have left Hawaii among the many areas in serious need of additional revenue. Currently, the lottery proposal is being examined by the Hawaiian Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

This past Monday, the House Tourism Committee ultimately decided to review the slots proposal after listening to testimony. Should the proposal be moved forward, the State Legislature would put the issue to a voter referendum on the ballot for the next election.

Hawaiians have consistently resisted introducing any kind of gambling to the islands; only Utah has gambling laws as strict. Under the terms of the slots proposal, gambling would be restricted to specific Oahu resort areas, and not be visible to passers-by. Powerball and/or Mega Millions participation could conceivably add a Hawaiian vacation to the long list of potential prizes available to players in other participating states.

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