Gambling and poker in Hawaii can appear to be confusing when confronting the issue at a glance. After all, Hawaii is one of the few states in the U.S. not to get involved in the rush to legalize gambling. Online poker was one of the hopes Hawaiian residents and tourists were had to be available once federal laws were put in place. Since states were allowed to decide on their own to legalize online gambling, many assumed Hawaii would follow suit with states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Even though online and land-based gambling isn’t technically legal in Hawaii, it isn’t expressly illegal either. It may sound confusing, but it is quite simple.
Poker and Gambling Laws in Hawaii
As of 2020, Hawaii is one of just two states in America that has no form of legalized gambling. It includes lotteries, horse racing, online gambling, or any other form of betting. It’s unclear as to why this island state refuses to offer any outlets for gamblers, but we do know the future doesn’t hold any promises.
Horse racing was legal, and numerous tracks ran throughout the islands up until the 1950s. And since Hawaii relies on much of its revenue from tourism, they offer direct flights to Las Vegas. It’s almost as if the state knows people love to gamble, but they don’t want them doing it there.
Numerous bills have been proposed to make land-based casinos and lotteries legal. However, most get shot down before they gain any momentum. In 2016, fifteen bills were sent to the state legislature alone.
Other bills included adding slots in airports to attract incoming tourists. A daily fantasy sports bill was proposed in 2018 by the same state senator who sponsored a bill banning any types of DFS. No irony there!
The latest attempt to include any types of regulated gambling was introduced in 2019 by Senators Gilbert Keith-Agaran and Senator Dru Kanuha. Bill 2669 was designed to create a state lottery and legalize games of chance. Including poker! Details of the bill spoke of using the revenue generated from legalized gambling to be used for schools, the environment, and addiction help.
Land-Based poker in Hawaii
Unfortunately, there are no places to play poker in Hawaii. It won’t mean that you can’t play at all, as social poker is considered legal with a few stipulations. Games must not be held in public or a place of business. Rake is prohibited, and players may only take home their winnings.
Although social poker is legal, in 2012, a group of players was arrested in what authorities called an illegal poker den game. All eight of the players charged were released and argued that they were abiding by Hawaii’s social gambling laws.
Online poker in Hawaii
Playing online poker in Hawaii is a bit of a grey area. Technically playing online poker is not illegal in the state. There is no law stating a resident or visitor can’t engage in online poker. However, there are no laws or regulations like New Jersey, las Vegas or other states that have it on the books.
It means you need to find an online poker room that offers online poker to players in Hawaii.
Where to play online poker in Hawaii
Now that you know it’s safe to play online poker in Hawaii; the next question is, where do you play?
Before 2006, when the UIGEA (unlawful internet gaming enforcement act) was enforced, poker players in Hawaii had a bevy of options to play online poker. Unfortunately, the cup has almost runneth dry. There are still a handful of online poker room operators that continue to service players in Hawaii. So, you’re not out of luck. Some of them include:
Most of these sites also offer sports betting and an online casino with table games and slots.
Poker in Hawaii FAQ
Aside from those already talked about, a lot of people will still have common questions. Some of the most common questions are:
Q: Has anyone been arrested for playing online poker in Hawaii?
A: No! No one has ever been arrested or charged with a crime for playing online poker in the state of Hawaii. Since playing online poker is not illegal in Hawaii, law enforcement agencies cannot convict anyone of a crime
Q: When will poker be legal in Hawaii?
A: At this point, it’s up in the air when it comes to any form of regulated poker or gambling. Since every bill that has been sent to the house or senate has been denied, regulated poker in Hawaii appears to not be a priority.
There is a group called the Maui Poker Association who has been lobbying hard for a regulated poker market in Hawaii. Maybe they can help push a bill further. But honestly, it doesn’t look hopeful any time soon.