We all know that the State of Hawaii government has terrible budget problems. There are bills in the Legislature to legalize gambling as a source of revenue.

One of those bills is to establish gambling casinos on the native Hawaiian Homelands. The bill HB2759 HD2 has already passed second reading with approval by two committees (Hawaiian Affairs, and Judiciary) and now awaits a hearing by the Finance Committee.

This information should raise many doubts in the minds of Congressional Representatives and Senators who have been relying on assurances from the Hawaii delegation that the Akaka bill prohibits gambling by the Akaka tribe.

Even though the Akaka bill has language which seems to prohibit the Akaka tribe from gambling, that language could nevertheless be evaded. Suppose the State grants a license to establish casinos on the Hawaiian Homelands, and does so before the Akaka bill is passed and before the tribe gets certified by the Secretary of Interior. The tribe might be able to keep the casinos despite language in the Akaka bill prohibiting them, on the theory that the Constitution says Congress cannot pass ex-post-facto laws. The Akaka tribe could ask a court to nullify the Akaka bill’s prohibition on gambling without fear of nullifying the rest of the bill, because the bill has a severability clause.

Following are excerpts from a lengthy Honolulu Advertiser article of Sunday, February 14, 2010 about legislation for gambling.

The excerpts show that Hawaii legislators, including the Chair of the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, believe casinos could be placed on native Hawaiian homelands without interfering with the Akaka bill.

“Gambling interests spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and public relations in Hawai’i nearly a decade ago, tempting state lawmakers with new tax revenue from a grand resort and casino. Nothing happened. This year, with no similar lobbying blitz, state House lawmakers have opened the door to legalized gambling, either through a single casino on O’ahu or casinos on Hawaiian home lands. … Even the talk of the state allowing casinos on Hawaiian home lands may undercut years of assurances in Washington, D.C., by Inouye and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka that federal recognition for Native Hawaiians would not lead to gambling as it has on Indian reservations. … [G]ambling bill pending before the House Finance Committee would give the Hawaiian Homes Commission the authority to allow casinos on Hawaiian home lands. … The Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill — known as the Akaka bill — prohibits gambling by a new Hawaiian governing authority that would negotiate with the state and federal governments over land use and cultural issues. Inouye and Akaka added the prohibition, aides say, to answer critics who have suggested that federal recognition is a potential back door to legalized gambling. … State Rep. Mele Carroll, D-13th (E. Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i), the chairwoman of the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee, who introduced the gambling bill, said she supports federal recognition and does not want to interfere with the debate in Washington. But she added that she wants Hawaiians to have a discussion about casino gambling as a potential revenue source. ‘They know that my intent is not to take away from the Akaka bill,’ Carroll said.”