• Hawai'i House Democrats

Rep. Eli Urges Immediate Halt to DHHL Plans for Gambling Casino in Kapolei


Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Representative Stacelynn K.M. Eli's deep concern is palpable when she discusses the possibility of a casino being built on Hawaiian Home Lands property, especially when Native Hawaiians have not yet been allowed the opportunity to provide input on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands' (DHHL) proposal.


"This casino does not align with DHHL's commitment to manage its trust with sound policies and procedures nor their commitment to work side-by-side with beneficiaries to create and maintain vibrant homestead communities, and should be halted," said Representative Eli (D-43, ‘Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko ‘Olina, Kahe Point, Nānākuli, Lualualei, Mā‘ili). "It is woefully ignorant and reckless to think that a casino will rehabilitate Native Hawaiians."


Representative Eli is the only member of the State Legislature who is a Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiary and on the waiting list for a property of her own. She is troubled by the effects a casino could have on Hawaiian women and the community at large.


A new report titled, "Gambling With Women's Safety: A Feminist Assessment of Proposed Resort Casino," written at the request of Representatives Eli, Lisa Kitagawa, Amy Perruso, Jeanné Kapela, Tina Wildberger and Sharon Har, details the effects of gambling as a public health issue that is tied to significant community harm and linked to sex trafficking and other violence against women.


The report was issued last week by the Hawai'i State Commission on the Status of Women. Its director, Khara Jabola-Carolus, said Native Hawaiians, immigrants, impoverished women, LGBTQ people, and children living in geographic proximity to the resort-casino are likely to experience the most harm from gambling.


"The Hawai'i State Commission on the Status of Women is concerned that the DHHL proposed resort-casino is likely to increase violence against women, particularly Native Hawaiian women and girls near Kapolei," said Jabola-Carolus. "Our research showed that casinos and sex trafficking go hand in hand, and gambling problems and domestic violence go hand in hand. The social cost of the casino seems too high to justify. Ultimately, Native Hawaiians shouldn’t have to choose between funding and women’s safety."


According to the report summary:


• Native Hawaiian, immigrant and impoverished women, LGBTQ people and children living in geographic proximity to the resort-casino are likely to experience the most gambling harm, such as problem gambling, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and sex trafficking;

• The State’s anti-sex trafficking, sexual assault, and domestic violence infrastructure is threadbare, faces significant budget cuts, and would struggle to adequately address an increase in gender-based violence;

• Prevention measures would likely face a structural headwind because sex trafficking reduction requires demand reduction, which is unlikely to be undertaken because it would require intervention with gambling customers who generate revenue. Thus, the resort-casino could create a vicious cycle that disincentives sex buyer demand reduction, incentives arrests of sexually exploited women, and maintains gender-based violence and economic instability for women, thereby placing women in a downward spiral;

• Gambling tourism is an investment in the preexisting, low wage and service-oriented economy that quickly collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic;

• Stakeholders should conduct further research into the impacts to women’s safety and should utilize economic models to forecast impacts that have been developed by sex trafficking experts at the national level;

• The State Legislature should adequately fund DHHL.

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