Does Hawaii have a state lottery? Currently, no - nor does it participate in multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions, so Hawaii residents are not able to buy lottery tickets in the state.
Hawaii is one of just five states that do not have a lottery - the others are Alabama, Alaska, Nevada, and Utah. These states are also not part of Powerball or Mega Millions. However, recently there have been moves in Alabama to potentially introduce lotteries and allow the sale of multi-state lottery tickets.
Hawaii is one of only two states without any form of gambling. The other is Utah, which arguably does allow a type of gaming in the form of "dinner and bingo."
Hawaii residents do have the option to travel to states that sell lottery tickets and purchase them there. This is also true of the other states without lotteries. For example, folks in Alabama can cross over into Florida, Nevadans can take advantage of their border with California, and those in Utah can take a road trip to Idaho.
"Lottery tourism" creates brisk business for gas stations and other lottery retailers near the borders, particularly when there's a big jackpot up for grabs. But of course, in Hawaii and Alaska visiting a neighboring state presents a bit more of a challenge!
The amount of money residents of states without a lottery spend out of state buying lottery tickets is a major reason why some state legislators argue that lotteries should be introduced. States with lotteries use a portion of the ticket sales for good causes within the state, such as education, including college scholarships. Proponents of lotteries contend that non-lottery states are disadvantaged by the money hemorrhaging across state lines, which could be spend in-state to support local initiatives.
So why do these five states still hold out against creating their own lotteries or selling Mega Millions and Powerball tickets? The reasons are different depending on the state. Established gambling industries in Nevada believe a lottery would undermine their business. In Alabama and Utah, religious beliefs play a role. Oil-rich Alaska has plenty of money, so it's not swayed by arguments that the state needs more funding from lottery ticket sales.
In Hawaii, its long-serving Senator Daniel Inouye's view was that any type of gambling was not a good fit with the state's crucial tourism industry. Introducing gambling to Hawaii would attract a "different type of people," he argued, and "it will not be the type you see now with their young children, young folks spending their honeymoon."
Inouye died in 2012, but his opinion continues to be widely held, as residents remain wary of "opening the floodgates" to gaming. Another concern is what a lottery could mean for any future Hawaiian lands settlement.
Gambling of any kind, including lotteries, is illegal under Hawaii Revised Statutes 712-1220, which covers Gambling Offenses. Taking part in gambling within the state is a misdemeanor. Promoting gambling is much more serious and may be a class C felony. The sale of lottery tickets from other states is not allowed in Hawaii. Online gambling is also illegal within the state, so residents are not allowed to purchase lottery tickets over the internet.
Can you win the lottery if you live in Hawaii?
Yes! One thing the law does allow is for Hawaii residents to buy tickets and bring them back home if they visit a state with a lottery - so residents do have a chance to win. However, if a Hawaii resident won the lottery, they would have to pay extra state taxes in addition to standard taxes that would apply.
Will Hawaii get a lottery?
Not everyone in Hawaii is against the idea of the state starting its own lottery. Some lawmakers have been arguing for the idea for decades, and the state Legislature debates the issue on a regular basis.
On January 24, 2019, State Senator Dru Mamo Kanuha introduced a bill that would allow Hawaii to sell tickets for Powerball and Mega Millions. The legislation attempts to create foundational infrastructure for the lottery by establishing a division in the state's Department of Budget and Finance to oversee participation in the multi-state lotteries. It also aims to change state laws to allow selling and buying of lottery tickets.
On March 8, Senator Kanuha introduced a Concurrent Resolution with the goal of encouraging the Department of Budget and Finance to analyze the possibility for Hawaii to participate in Powerball and Mega Millions, observing that other states use lottery ticket sales to generate large amounts of revenue for state projects.
However, the resolution was deferred in the state Senate on March 22 - so it looks like Hawaii won't be getting a state lottery or allowing the sale of Powerball and Mega millions tickets anytime soon. Even a study on the feasibility of a lottery raising more money for the state's general fund won't be going ahead.
Prior to this, in January 2018, state Rep. John Mizuno put forward the idea of a three-year pilot initiative that would use lottery ticket sale revenue to tackle the high levels of homelessness in Hawaii. "If we could collect $50, $60, $70 million and focus that on homeless services, that would be great for our entire state," Mizuno said. He said lottery funds could also help with mental health and drug treatment programs.
Some residents support the idea that lottery revenue could make a positive difference to state issues. "Maybe it could go towards schooling systems. That's a very large public need that benefits everybody," said resident Logan Phipps, interviewed by Hawaii News Now. Resident Abby Wilmington added, "I think distributing the money throughout education and the homeless population and conservation efforts in Hawaii would be good."
But skeptics believe that any type of gambling will only intensify social problems. "If we want to create social ills and homelessness, this is probably a good bill," said Republican state Rep. Gene Ward.
The future of a Hawaii Lottery
In an interesting turn of events that is being watched in the state, Atlantis Resorts recently bought a property near Kapolei on the island of Oahu, reportedly spending $480 million on the purchase. Some speculate that a change in the state's gambling laws is in the offing, pointing out that no other Atlantis resort operates without gambling on-site. The property is also next to the Disney resort at Ko Olina; it remains to be seen how Disney would react if gambling was introduced next door, given its clientele of families with young children.
However, although there are persistent attempts to introduce a lottery in Hawaii, so far there is no evidence that the state's majority anti-gambling stance is softening. However, Hawaii residents who travel to other states like California and Oregon can enjoy the chance to legally buy Powerball and Mega Millions tickets while they are visiting.
In fact, locals joke that the lack of gambling in Hawaii may have something to do with Las Vegas being such a popular vacation destination for state residents.