Hawaii is undoubtedly one of the top vacation destinations in the world. This island paradise offers its visitors sandy beaches, wonderful nature, fantastic resorts, and plenty of entertainment. However, if you’re looking for some gambling action in Aloha State, you’re out of luck. Hawaii has one of the strictest gambling laws in the country and, besides Utah, is the only state with a full ban on commercial gambling. There have been many attempts to change that, but, for now, the casino landscape in Hawaii remains barren.
On this page, you will find all the information you need to understand all the gambling restrictions imposed by the Hawaiian gambling laws and navigate through its complex collection of codes and provisions, as well as an explanation of potential ways to gamble legally in this state. Among other things related to Hawaii gambling, here’s what you’ll find:
The state of Hawaii has strict restrictions in place for nearly all forms of gambling. Gambling legislation is one of the strictest in the country, with only certain kinds of social gambling permitted. This means that even the types of gambling that are allowed in other states with rather restrictive regulations, like the lottery, bingo, or charitable and church gambling are prohibited in the Aloha State. On top of all this, even the cruise ships passing through Hawaii waters are not allowed to provide gambling services.
Engaging in any gambling activities within Hawaii’s borders is considered a misdemeanor. Hawaii Revised Statutes 706-640 and 706-663 state that any person who knowingly participates in or advances gambling activities can face a fine of up to $2,000 and potentially spend up to one year in jail. The ban on gambling is nothing new in the Aloha State, These islands have been a gambling-free zone ever since Hawaii became the 50th member of the United States, back in 1959.
Today, all regulations related to gambling are detailed in Hawaii Revised Statutes 712-1220. These regulations define and ban advancing gambling activity, bookmaking, contests of chance, gambling itself, gambling devices, lottery, and mutuel betting. Besides participating in gambling, punishable offices are also possessions of gambling devices and gambling records. While this legislation was introduced in 1972 to cover slot machines, roulette tables, and other gambling devices, the use of the term “any device” that facilitates gambling between persons, clearly extends the prohibitions to the more modern and contemporary forms of gambling and casino devices.
As casino games are prohibited throughout the state, there are no land-based casinos in Hawaii. This even includes tribal casinos which are often the exception in many states. So, there are zero gambling venues and this includes casinos, racinos, racetracks, slot parlors, and bingo halls. Of course, there are always underground gambling and illegal gambling operations, but the state is rather active and strict in its efforts to crack down on those types of activities.
The state doesn’t even make exceptions for state-run lottery games or charitable and church gambling. In the history of the state of Hawaii, no lottery system has even been implemented, or even seriously considered, despite several efforts to do so. While Hawaiian residents have the right to purchase lottery tickets when traveling out of state, the sale of such tickets on Hawaii islands is strictly prohibited.
Even though the Hawaiian gambling legislation has no section covering the games of skill, poker is still restricted in the same way as traditional casino games and that has been the case since the 1961 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling on this matter. So, the only options for Hawaii poker players are social games or social poker apps.
Hawaii’s gambling ban also includes sports betting. Even after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, the Hawaiian legislators still remained determined now to allow wagers of this kind within their state. Betting is not allowed in any context, meaning besides sports, you also can’t place wagers on horse and dog racing, as well as politics and entertainment events. The restrictions even include daily fantasy sports.
While platforms that offer DFS games typically claim that they’re based on skill and not luck, the Hawaiian state thinks otherwise. After much discussion on this subject, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin released an opinion in 2016, explicitly defining DFS games as illegal under the Hawaii gambling laws.
The only form of gambling that is legal in Hawaii is the so-called “social gambling.” This, basically, included home games like bingo, poker, bridge, March Madness brackets, and many other games millions of Americans enjoy on the daily basis. However, this type of gaming is precisely defined and strictly regulated on Hawaii islands. It’s a subject of several restrictions defining when it’s legal to engage in these types of gambling games.
To be legal, social gaming has to fulfill several conditions, including that players play on equal terms with each other, nothing of value exchanges hands, no player receives any sort of value prize, no third person or entity profits in any way from the game, and the game is not conducted in a bar, restaurant, nightclub, hotel, or similar establishments, or in public spaces.
We already established that there are no legal land-based casinos in Hawaii. Numerous attempts to make at least some sorts of gambling establishments legal have all failed as the general consensus among both the Hawaii lawmakers and the residents of the state is that legalizing gambling would bring much more bad than good to these paradise islands.
However, unlike Utah, where religion is the primary driver behind the ban on gambling, Hawaii has different reasoning behind the decision to prohibit all forms of gambling. Religion does play a part, mainly through the efforts of the LDS Church which has a large presence on the islands, including a major temple and a branch of BYU on Ouahu, but the influence of religious groups is nowhere as strong as in Utah. If you’re looking for the main reasons why Hawaii casino gambling is practically non-existent, you’ll probably be more likely to find them in the tradition and culture of the islands.
To get why the Hawaiians are so reluctant to have casinos on their land, you need to understand the role family plays in their society. Family values are at the very core of the culture and tradition on the islands and that has been the case for centuries. That hasn’t changed even when Hawaii became a premium tourist destination and in fact, it’s a major part of its appeal. The Hawaii islands have traditionally attracted visitors who prefer a family atmosphere, beautiful nature, good food, and soothing surroundings to the wild nightlife and frantic offerings of some other vacation destinations, such as Vegas or parts of Florida. So, the feeling among the locals is that brick-and-mortar casinos would corrupt all that and bring numerous problems to an otherwise pretty peaceful and relaxed environment.
Establishing legal casinos would certainly have its advantages, as it would increase tax revenue which could be used for various community needs, create jobs, and attract more visitors. However, there’s a fear that it would ruin the identity of the islands, and the downsides, such as gambling addiction and the increased crime rate, would heavily outweigh the benefits. Many lawmakers and Hawaii residents are convinced that the gambling industry wouldn’t create any new value but only exploit the tourism offering that already exists.
Plus, the casino development would bring in various special-interest groups who would likely ask for various concessions and assistance from the government, but certainly not have the well-being of the community on their minds. Hawaii has managed to build quite a reputation for itself as a fun and sunny place to spend the vacation and has been rather successful at attracting visitors as it is. So, most locals, including state lawmakers, feel that there’s no need to fix what’s not broken.
No, gambling is not legal in Hawaii, and almost all forms of casino gaming are prohibited. This includes brick-and-mortar casinos, tribal casinos, sports betting, horse and dog race betting, lottery, bingo, charitable gambling, and even daily fantasy sports. The only exception is social gambling which is legal under the condition that no player or third party profits from it and that it’s not organized by entities such as casinos, hotels, bars, or similar establishments.
At the moment, Hawaii has a blanket ban on all forms of gambling and there are no signs that things will change any time soon. Even with some positive movements on the federal level, such as the Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal ban on sports betting, the current outlook in Aloha State regarding legal gambling is not great.
Most of the laws regulating casino gaming and other forms of gambling have been in effect since Hawaii joined the United States in 1959, so changing them is anything but easy, although there is some interest in the transition from the status quo on the islands. It’s not uncommon to read editorials in the local newspapers asking why the state doesn’t take the opportunity to benefit from creating a state-controlled lottery system or legalizing other forms of gambling. There are several groups and grassroots organizations, such as the Maui Poker Association, that are constantly lobbying for change in the state legislature and the introduction of more lenient gambling laws.
The fact is that thousands of Hawaiians are already participating in online gambling despite the restrictions and the gamblers from this state are one of the largest groups of visitors in Las Vegas, so much so that Sin City is often dubbed “the ninth island.” So even with all the cultural and historical reasons to oppose legal gambling, there’s no denying that there is plenty of interest in moving things forward and allowing certain types of gaming.
In the past, there have been several attempts to push through legislation that will allow gambling or at least some forms of it on the islands. Probably the closest Hawaii came to having some sort of legal gaming was in 2016 when state senator Will Espero introduced bill SB-677, looking to expand gambling rights and regulate the casino industry on the islands with a main focus on the lottery and internet gambling. The bill initially gained a lot of traction but eventually failed to get the needed support in the State Senate.
Other attempts didn’t do much better either, including HB2251 in 2010 which sought to create Gaming Control Board and license casino operators in Honolulu, or HB 2422, the online poker bill from 2008. There were a number of other propositions, such as HB 766 (shipboard gambling), HB 348 (state lottery), HB 855 (state-sanctioned Daily Fantasy Sports monitoring and registration), and HB 1107 (creating Hawaii Sports Wagering Corporation and regulating sports betting in the state) but none of them made it to the Governors’s desk.
So, based on the history of attempting to introduce gambling laws, the future of legal gambling in Hawaii is rather bleak. The latest glimmer of hope came early in 2023 when Oahu state Rep. John Mizuno introduced what’s been dubbed the “sports gambling bill.” The bill proposes granting the 10-year license to the first stand-alone sportsbook and card room on Oahu island. According to the proposal, sports betting would only be possible on-site and in-person, while the card room would only feature a single game – Texas Hold’Em. The majority of funds raised through tax revenue would go to fund the housing of Native Hawaiians and to support local Law Enforcement. The bill has gained some traction among state lawmakers, but judging by the history, gambling reform is still far away.
The blanket ban on gambling in Hawaii also covers the offering of online gambling services within the state. The only exception here is the social gaming apps and sites, such as Zynga Poker. However, while these kinds of platforms feature all the popular casino games such as poker, blackjack, or roulette and are a lot of fun, you can’t wager real money on the games they offer and can’t win any cash while gambling.
Basically, the only viable alternative, if you want to gamble for real money in Hawaii, is doing it on casino sites registered in US-friendly jurisdictions, such as Costa Rica or Curacao. The casinos that hold licenses from these gambling authorities typically accept American players and conform to a strict set of standards prescribed by those authorities. The Hawaii gambling law doesn’t explicitly mention online iGaming and there’s hasn’t been any cases of someone being charged for gambling on offshore sites, so in that respect, this type of gaming should be perfectly safe.
These USA real money online slots sites commonly offer the same games as most land-based casinos, so you’ll have plenty to choose from, and even typically feature higher payout percentages than traditional gambling establishments.
However, when playing on these sites, you should still be careful, as not every online gaming platform is trustworthy. When looking to gamble online in Hawaii, your primary concern should be the safety of your bankroll and personal information. To make sure you gamble only on legit and reliable sites, we recommend that you use your list of top-rated online casinos as we have thoroughly tested each of those platforms to make sure it has top-notch security and privacy features, besides offering enjoyable and fun gambling experiences.
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In general, online gambling, like all other forms of gambling, is prohibited in Hawaii. However, there are some exceptions that include gambling on social gambling sites or apps and US online casinos with licenses in jurisdictions outside the United States.
No, there aren’t any land-based casinos in Hawaii. This means that there are zero gambling establishments on the islands, and the ban includes commercial and tribal casinos, racinos, sportsbooks, bingo halls, slot parlors, and any other kind of brick-and-mortar operation that provides gambling services.
No, gambling is not legal in Hawaii and the Aloha State has, next to Utah, the strictest and the most restrictive gambling laws in the United States.
No, sports betting is not allowed in Hawaii, as it also falls under the gambling operations prohibited by the local gambling legislature.
Playing poker for real money is not allowed in Hawaii. However, you can play poker as a part of social gambling or on social casino apps or sites, meaning that you can only play for fun, as no player can earn any prize of value from the game, and no third-party entity profits from organizing such games.
No, the state of Hawaii doesn’t have any lottery games, state-run or otherwise, as they’re also banned by the local gambling laws.