Is Sports Betting Legal in Hawaii?

Hawaii, like Alaska, is so far removed from the continental United States that its sportsbetting scene is, shall we say, less than frenetic. Unlike Alaska, though, they are able to drum up more interest in their native teams—namely college basketball and football. Hawaii has also established itself as something of a nirvana location for one-off sporting events, like golf tournaments, the NFL's Pro Bowl, etc.

Hawaii Sports Betting Law

It should come as no surprise that Hawaii's gambling regulations are less than flexible. They don't have a ton of teams that will be found at sportsbooks to begin with, so their incentive to push more legalized betting just isn't there. More than that, they're an intense tourist destination that's founded and prided upon the landscape. They aren't trying to reel in customers for betting purposes. They want visitors to spend money on the historical landmarks, hallmark attractions, destination excursions and things like that. Promoting casinos and other gambling attractions, such as horse and dog racing, would only detract from revenue in those industries.

Murky Casino Laws 

Though there do appear to be some hotels that have slot machines within them, Hawaii is not a place that has any full-blown casinos. Both tribes and conglomerates have tried, but every proposal or new bill usually gets rejected with the utmost quickness, suggesting that Hawaii plans to keep up its existence-long tradition of shirking most gambling forms altogether.

No State Lottery...For No Reason(?)

Hawaii does not have a state lottery, even though plenty of people have sought for that to change over the years. Bills seeking tweaks to the laws are continuously denied, much to the dismay of many residents. Some attribute this to Hawaii being such a tourist-heavy locale.

Certain lobbyists and lawmakers don't believe there is much to be gained by policing a lottery for whatever state revenue comes of it.

Still, the absence of a lottery is puzzling. No state should be turning down additional revenue in this day and age, and normalizing this, along with other forms of gambling, could help turn Hawaii into a place in which people look to settle down rather than just vacation.

Social Gambling Is Legal

Social gambling is the only explicitly legal form of gambling in Hawaii. And while this may not seem like a big deal, it's actually a huge one. Charitable gambling isn't allowed, so it stands to reason Hawaii would have some legislation that prohibits social betting as well.

It wouldn't do much to prevent it, since in-house poker games are almost impossible to completely purge, but it would fit with their regulatory motif elsewhere. 

Alas, you can have a poker game in your living room. But that doesn't mean you can run a full-fledged bingo night out of your local church's basement, nor does it mean any underground poker rooms you come across can be spun into a legalized method of betting.

Online Gambling Is...Not Specified

Online gambling is the closest thing Hawaii comes to having a second form of legal wagering. Granted, it's legality is tied to the lack of literature on the matter. So many of Hawaii's laws and policies haven't been updated in such a long time that there is nothing that specifically outlines an illegal differentiation between gambling overseas and gambling from Hawaii via overseas websites.

Daily fantasy betting is listed as a no-go, so you can use that as your baseline for this. You're free to bet money with online oddsmakers and casinos, but you must do so at your own risk. As always, it's smartest to wager amounts and withdraw sums that don't need to be flagged by the banks. This, if nothing else, diminishes the odds of you running into problems with this gray area of the law.

Hawaii Gambling Law Overview

Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren't allowed in Hawaii at this time.

  • Casino Gambling: Not legal
  • Tribal Gambling: Not legal
  • Poker: Not legal
  • Horse-Race Betting: Legal
  • Dog-Race Betting: Not Legal
  • Lottery: Not legal
  • Daily Fantasy Betting: Not legal
  • Social Gambling: Legal, but plenty of restrictions apply
  • Charitable Gambling: Not legal
  • Online Gambling: Unspecified

Hawaii Sports Teams

Hawaii Warriors (College Football)

Since Hawaii doesn't have any professional sports teams, the athletic squads from the University of Hawaii are considered its touchstone outlets. 

First up is the football team, which is currently a member of the Mountain West Conference. They have not been good recently on a national scale. They won the Hawaii Bowl in 2016, but did so after posting a paltry 7-7 record during the regular season. Their last non-Hawaii Bowl appearance came in the Sugar Bowl after the 2007 crusade. They would end up losing. 

For further reference, the Hawaii Warriors have only been ranked in the AP's end-of-season top-25 poll twice in their existence. They have a lot of work to do if they're ever going to be considered a legitimate college football powerhouse.

Hawaii Warriors (College Basketball)

The Hawaii Warriors basketball team hasn't been much better than its football counterpart. They have enjoyed plenty of above-.500 seasons in recent years, including a cameo in the 2016 March Madness Tournament. But that was just their fifth ever tournament, and they've never made it past the second round of the festivities.

Hawaii Warriors (Volleyball)

Men's and women's volleyball is super popular relative to other collegiate enterprises throughout the United States. Next to the football and basketball teams, the University of Hawaii promotes its volleyball program more than any other one. Both squads are basically annual competitors in the national tournament and fixtures in the championship conversation.

Hawaii's Biggest Sporting Event of the Year

The Hawaii Bowl (college football) is a close second here, and depending on its participants, it can sometimes exceed the popularity of the NFL's Pro Bowl. But it's tough to roll with anything else when the Pro Bowl features some of the biggest names in the game facing off in a defense-less exhibition and a weekend's worth of skill events.

There are more than a few people who think the Pro Bowl is broken, and for good reason. It takes place in February, usually the week before the Super Bowl, which means players from two of the best squads in the league won't be making the trip. That the game is also scheduled when the season is over, with the only one game left on the schedule, is another point of contention.

Unfortunately, though, there's no way around this. The NFL cannot host a midseason affair like the NHL, MLB and NBA. The injury risk would be too great for most players to participate. The best shot professional football has at enhancing relevance is perhaps getting rid of the game altogether and coming up with a lot more skills competitions that incentivize everyone to participate.

Then, and only then, might it be able to register on the midseason radar.

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