2010   Jan 18

Hawaii has always been known for its sun, sand and surf. It may soon add another attraction: slots.


Hawaii is one of the last two states with no legalized gambling, but lawmakers facing billion-dollar budget deficits and hunting for ways increase revenue are thinking about allowing casinos in tourist-filled Waikiki or on Native Hawaiian lands.


Proponents say casinos would draw much-needed new money and jobs into the long-troubled, tourism-dependent economy.


Tourists from the mainland would skip Las Vegas to sun on pristine beaches and take a turn at the roulette tables. Coveted high-rollers from Asia could avoid the long trans-Pacific flight, shortening their trip to the slots while also checking out the hula dancing.


And the hundreds of thousands of Hawaii residents who fly about six hours to Vegas would only have to jump in the car or hop a short flight to place a wager. Las Vegas is known around here as Hawaii’s ninth island, and hotels in Nevada cater to the state’s needs by serving island dishes and dealers wear flora aloha shirts.


“The populace here loves to gamble. Hawaii by nature is a gambling community,” said Honolulu resident Ricky Graves, who travels to Las Vegas two or three times a year, but fears that casinos in Hawaii could ruin families by making it too easy for them to gamble away their money.


Gambling opponents are urging state legislators to block casinos so that the islands can maintain their status as a family-friendly destination lacking the serious crime and social problems they say accompanies legalized gambling elsewhere.

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