Hawaii Legislature – Considering a Lottery

Picture of Lotto Balls

By: T. Jeffersonian

The Hawaii State Legislature is considering a measure that would create a state lottery system to fund public education. Senate Bill 816 (SB 816) would establish a state lottery that could begin as early as January 1, 2023. On February 10, 2021, the Hawaii Senate’s Education Committee passed SB 816 out of committee for further discussion. 40% of all revenue from the lottery would be split equally among the University of Hawaii, the State Department of Education, and the general fund. The lottery would be open to those 18 years of age and older.

Lottery Opponents and Neutral Opinions

Governor David Ige opposes building casinos on Hawaiian Homelands because the Governor does not morally approve of gambling, but is the lottery system not a form of gambling? Currently, It is uncertain if the Governor opposes The State of Hawaii supporting a lottery. 

There are people in Hawaii who do oppose the lottery, arguing that it causes a “Reverse Robinhood Effect.” A “Reverse Robinhood Effect” entails taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Opponents point to some studies that have shown that lotteries hurt lower-income earners. Lower-income earners do not see ways to get out of poverty, so they stake their chances on winning the lottery, spending the little money they do have on a fraction of a chance of winning. It is argued that those with higher incomes have more options to improve their livelihoods so they will not partake in the lottery as often as the poor.

The Honolulu Police department and other security agencies within the state also oppose the lottery, as they suggest that a lottery could result in social problems connected with illegal gambling.

The State Department of Education does not take a position on the lottery but is looking at steep budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Education budget shortfalls currently fluctuate between $100 million to $140 million. Although the Department of Education does not take a position on the lottery, the Department has pointed out that the lottery measure could offer the Department greater predictability and stability for future education funding. 

Opinion

Why is it considered okay to forcibly take money from any group and give it to another? Robin Hood is a fictional hero who helped the poor, but he still committed a crime – armed robbery. Instead of aspiring to be a fictional character like Robin Hood, can we not instead aspire to be a real hero’s like John F. Kennedy, who advocated for a macroeconomic tide that raises all boats?

The police are against a lottery because it can possibly elevate crime. The poverty levels in some areas have shown to be correlated with crime levels. When you are put in a situation in which you must choose whether to feed yourself, feed your family, or pay rent, of course, alternate means of completing all of these will surface. Will you sell drugs, participate in prostitution, commit petty crimes, commit burglary, trespass on a property?

When will children stop attending school every day because there is not enough money to keep the doors open or enough to fund afterschool programs? Where do these juveniles go while their parents are working or trying to find work? Idle hands and minds are the devil’s workshop.  There certainly would be increased drug use, increased teen pregnancy, and increased underage drinking. Do the police prefer dealing with poverty-induced crimes that we know are bound to occur or would they prefer to handle lottery-induced crime that will possibly plague our streets and communities?

A Comparison

            North Carolina has a population of nearly 10.5 million people. This is roughly the same population that Hawaii has when taking annual tourism into consideration. North Carolina adopted an education lottery in 2005 and through that lottery over the past 16 years, North Carolina has earned $5.5 billion for the North Carolina Department of Education.

Hawaii could earn that much or even more if the lottery is made available to both permanent and transient Hawaiian populations alike. This money will not only keep Hawaii public schools open, but it will allow us to improve the overall quality of our education. It can bring public education closer to par with private education. Our children will go to higher-quality schools and afterschool programs more. Crime rates will drop. Lower-income students will receive higher quality educations enabling them to get higher-paying jobs. The cycle of poverty can end with their generation because through the Hawaii state lottery system, higher quality education can be provided to them. Approve the lottery so Hawaii can move closer to being a fiscal asset, vice a federal cash drain liability and so our children can receive the education that they deserve.