Chair Tsuji, Vice Chair Ward, and Members of the Committee:
Mahalo for considering this testimony. The League of Women Voters opposes H.C.R.223, which would establish a gambling task force to analyze the costs and benefits of various forms of gambling in Hawaii.
Establishing an information-gathering body is unnecessary. A vast quantity of information has already been presented to the Legislature, with significant amounts of that information coming from studies conducted over many months or years by independent entities using scientific methods.
The possibility of a thorough, balanced report done in five months by nine, unpaid volunteers (who presumably have a full life apart from this task force) is nil. While the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism is tasked with administration of the group and organizing its findings, the department already testified last session, on an almost-identical bill, that they lack both the resources and expertise to conduct an investigation that would stand up to the scrutiny of experts.
The selection of task force members is primarily at the discretion of the appointing parties: the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. While the resolution requests the DBEDT Director to invite representatives from four government departments and one non-profit economic development organization to serve, the majority of members will still be appointees.
Meanwhile, Act 208, Session Laws of Hawaii, 2012, exempts members of state task forces from certain provisions of the code of ethics. No review process exists to ensure wide representation or to identify conflicts of interest. Public input into the selection process is nonexistent.
Any numbers arrived at by the task force reflect mere projections. Conditions on which projections are based may change dramatically. Consider, for example, the effect of internet gambling on any system put in place in Hawaii. The experience of other cities and states may have little relevance for Hawaii.
In the end, even if it were possible to generate firm, verifiable figures for revenue, it is impossible to arrive at total cost. What is the cost of an increased crime rate and its effect on tourism? What is the cost of discretionary expenditures diverted from local restaurants and theaters and sports? What is the cost of non-discretionary expenditures diverted from groceries and rent and medical bills? What is the cost of family tension and breakdown?
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii urges you to defeat this resolution.