A bill to legalize online poker and sports betting, but not casino gaming, has been introduced in the Senate. It’s a big development for a state that currently has no forms of gaming. Both verticals could launch in 2025.
Last updated: February 12, 2024
To protect Hawaii residents who gamble on the internet, and to capture revenues generated in Hawaii from online sports wagering and poker, it is in the best interest of the state and its citizens to regulate this existing activity
Hawaii is one of two states where nearly all forms of gambling are illegal. But attitudes could be changing, and state lawmakers are looking at possibly legalizing online poker and online sports betting — with markets launching as early as 2025.
The Aloha State is averse to legalizing land-based casinos, on the grounds that it would attract a form of tourism that runs counter to its brand as a family-friendly destination. Hawaii’s prohibitions extend to cruise ships that come into port as well — onboard electronic gambling devices are illegal.
But the situation changed in August 2023. That’s when a series of wildfires broke out on the island of Maui. More than 100 people were killed and thousands were left homeless from the disaster. The state is considering legalizing online poker and sports betting as a way to generate money to help the wildfire victims and to prevent future wildfires across the islands.
No, most forms of gambling are illegal in the state, including online poker — although social and sweepstakes casinos are legal, with restrictions. But a bill was recently submitted to legalize online poker and online sports betting. Casino gaming would still be illegal, and there wouldn’t be any retail sportsbooks.
If lawmakers in Hawaii pass the bill as written, there would be a single operator authorized to provide online poker and sports betting. Taking into consideration the deadlines listed below, the markets would probably launch during the second half of 2025 at the earliest.
|Online Poker in Hawaii: Key Facts
|Not currently legal. A bill under consideration would make online poker legal, with a market launching in late 2025 at the earliest.
|📅 Date Legalized
|👥 State Population
|1.4 Million (ranks 40th)
|🔥 Potential HI Poker Rooms
|Proposed bill permits just one operator.
|⚖️ Regulated By
|Hawaii Gaming Control Commission (proposed)
|🔞 Legal Age to Gamble
|18+ for social/sweepstakes casinos
A key lawmaker in Hawaii has introduced a bill that would allow a single operator to offer online poker and sports betting by the second half of 2025 at the earliest, with a portion of the proceeds going to wildfire relief efforts.
Under SB 3376, there would be no retail sportsbooks and both online and land-based casinos would still be kapu — native Hawaiian for forbidden. Multi-state poker hasn’t been proposed, either, but that could always be added later.
The proposal is unique for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the bill was filed in Hawaii — one of just two US states (I’m looking at you, Utah) without most forms of gambling.
Social and sweepstakes casinos are legal in Hawaii, but some restrictions have been put in place. Specifically, under state law sweepstakes cannot be played in any type of business establishment (including hotels, bars, and restaurants) and are illegal in public places and churches as well.
But the state is still reeling from a series of wildfires last summer, including one that destroyed Lahaina, a town on the island of Maui. The disaster remains top of mind — when lawmakers opened their 2024 session on January 17, they vowed to press ahead with improving fire prevention efforts statewide and to continue to help thousands of displaced residents.
“As we go forward, we want to make sure [a disaster like Lahaina] doesn’t happen on any other island,” Senator Ronald Kouchi (D-Kauai, Niihau) said, according to the Associated Press.
|Hawaii Gaming Control Commission (HGCC) appointed
|July 1, 2024
|Regulator adopts rules, makes applications available
|October 29, 2024
|Deadline for operators to submit an application
|December 28, 2024
|HGCC picks an operator
|March 28, 2025
|Operator issued license
|July 26, 2025
Kouchi introduced SB 3376 on January 24. The bill passed its first reading in the Senate, where Kouchi has served as president since 2015, two days later.
SB 3376 calls for creating a seven-member Hawaii Gaming Control Commission (HGCC), all of whom would be appointed by the governor. The new regulator would be authorized to issue one gaming license to a single operator for online poker and an online sportsbook.
HGCC would be required to adopt rules governing online poker and sports betting within 120 days of the panel’s appointment. The regulator would also be required to make applications available for the gaming license by that time.
Operators would have 60 days to submit an application for the gaming license. HGCC would then have 90 days after the deadline for applications to select an operator. The regulator would have an additional 120 days to issue the license after it has made its selection.
SB 3376 has an effective date of July 1, 2024. If the timeline is unchanged, an operator would be issued a license by July 26, 2025. Online poker and sports betting would likely launch sometime after that — in H2 2025 at the earliest — following a soft launch period with oversight by the HGCC.
On the online sports betting side, wagering would not be allowed on Hawaii-based teams.
Potential operators would pay an application fee of $50,000, to help defray the costs associated with background checks by the HGCC. Applicants would also be required to file a $200,000 bond with the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT). The license would have a ten-year term and could be renewed for additional ten-year terms.
The bill in its current form does not specify a tax rate, but it does include a graduated system for the operator to pay the state a percentage of its gross revenue for the previous fiscal year. The operator would pay the state 70% of its profits following the first full year of operations, but the percentage of profits due to the state would decrease by 5% each year.
That means the operator would give 60% of its profits to the state for the third year of operations, and 30% in the ninth year. By the 14th year, the operator would give up 5% of its profits — presumably the operator would not give the state a share of its profits after the 15th year. It would still be on the hook for taxes, however.
If the idea of legalizing online poker and sports betting without online casino sounds familiar, that’s because it is — gaming proponents in Kentucky tried to do the same thing in that state for years, but to no avail. They were ultimately successful in legalizing sports betting, without poker, in March 2023.
That might not matter in Hawaii. SB 3376 articulates that lawmakers have discovered “tens of thousands of Hawaii residents illegally gamble using online sports and poker gambling websites or cell phone apps.
“These gambling websites often are operated offshore and are not subject to regulation or taxation by the state,” the bill states. “To protect Hawaii residents who gamble on the internet, and to capture revenues generated in Hawaii from online sports wagering and poker, it is in the best interest of the state and its citizens to regulate this existing activity by authorizing and implementing a secure, responsible, and legal system for online sports and poker wagering.”
Even operators have issued advisories on Hawaii. Last July, BetMGM listed the Aloha State as one of six without any forms of gambling, but still managed to mention poker.
“So fervent is the state’s desire to keep any form of gambling out of Hawaii that even cruise ships that start and finish here are not permitted to have any electronic gambling devices onboard,” the operator said on its website.
“The fate of anyone indulging in a little online poker is, however, uncertain in Hawaii.”
No, but online poker could be legal in Hawaii in the future. A bill was introduced recently to legalize online poker and online sports betting — there would be no casino gaming, either land-based or online, and no retail sportsbooks. If everything goes smoothly, an online poker market could launch in Hawaii as early as the second half of 2025.
Absolutely not. Hawaii is actually one of two states to have banned nearly all forms of gambling. Social and sweepstakes casinos are legal, under some circumstances.
Yes, they are! Sweepstakes casinos — such as High 5 Casino, Stake.us Casino, Funrize Social Casino, No Limit Coins Social Casino, and TaoFortune Social Casino — are perfectly legal in Hawaii. They are also an increasingly popular way to gamble, especially in states like Hawaii that’s don’t have regulated online gambling. Check out our in-depth review of sweepstakes casinos.
Not yet, but if lawmakers in Hawaii pass a bill submitted in January, it’s possible that there could be a regulated market for online poker and online sports betting up and running sometime in the second half of 2025.
Offshore poker sites do not offer the same consumer protection level as legal, regulated sites, so they are not recommended. Players on offshore sites are at risk of identity theft when disclosing their financial and personal information. Federal officials have warned US citizens not to use offshore sites because they have no legal recourse to collect winnings owed to them.
Information on the dangers of US citizens gambling on illegal offshore sites and how to tell if a poker site is legal is available in this guide on Poker Shield.