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Hawaii is the only U.S. state without a lottery. If you’ve wondered why there’s no lottery in Hawaii, you’re not alone. Many visitors and even locals don’t understand why Aloha State residents can’t try their luck to win big jackpot prizes.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Hawaii has no lottery because various lobbying efforts and cultural values among native Hawaiians have prevented proposals to establish one from being approved over the years.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the full history and reasons why Hawaii remains the lone holdout without a state-sponsored lottery system for its residents.

A Long History of Rejected Lottery Proposals

1978: First Attempt Blocked

In 1978, a proposal to establish a lottery system to raise funds for the state was brought forward but ultimately rejected. Opposition was led by religious groups and prominent Hawaiian legislators who argued it went against Hawaiian values.

1990s: Tourism Industry Opposition

In the 1990s, the idea of a lottery surfaced again, with proponents claiming it would boost tourism by attracting visitors hoping to win big. However, major industry groups like the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau opposed it, believing a lottery could tarnish Hawaii’s reputation as a family-friendly destination.

Early 2000s: Hawaiian Values Cited

Bills introduced in 2002 and 2003 to create a lottery also failed. Supporters of Native Hawaiian issues spoke against them, stating lotteries preyed upon the economically disadvantaged and violated the core Hawaiian cultural value of caring for all people in the community.

2010s: Recent Failed Efforts

There were several attempts in the early 2010s to pass a lottery bill, but none succeeded. Gov. Neil Abercrombie cited economic reasons for supporting it, but faced resistance from Democratic majorities in the legislature. According to a 2018 Civil Beat article, recent proposals stalled due to:

  • Concerns over using a lottery to fund education
  • The administrative costs of setting up a lottery system
  • Continued opposition from those citing moral grounds

Polls over the past decade show residents fairly evenly split on the idea. While a lottery could generate over $50 million per year for the state, decades of history in Hawaii suggests ongoing cultural resistance to the concept.

Key Reasons and Arguments Against a Hawaii Lottery

Preserving Native Hawaiian Values

Native Hawaiian culture emphasizes community, family, spirituality, and harmony with nature. Gambling and lotteries go against these values by promoting individual gain over the collective good. Many Native Hawaiians believe a state lottery would violate the Aloha Spirit and lead to social problems.

Protecting Low-Income Families

Studies show lotteries disproportionately attract low-income players who can least afford to spend money on gambling. Nearly 50% of lottery revenue comes from the poorest third of households. A lottery in Hawaii could worsen financial hardship and inequality.

Lawmakers want to shield low-income families from falling into cycles of compulsive lottery play.

Preventing Uncontrolled Gambling Problems

Hawaii already struggles with illegal gambling. One study estimated nearly 50,000 Hawaii residents show signs of disordered gambling. A state-sponsored lottery could enable more gambling addiction and bankruptcies.

Hawaii prides itself on health and wellness – lawmakers are hesitant to exacerbate gambling disorders by introducing a lottery.

Maintaining Hawaii’s Brand and Image

Tourism drives Hawaii’s economy. The state carefully crafts its brand around natural beauty and Hawaiian culture. A government-run lottery could tarnish this image. Rather than joining the 45 states with lotteries, Hawaii wants to promote ethical, sustainable tourism.

Lawmakers believe a lottery would commercialize the Aloha Spirit and go against the state’s brand.

Other Gaming Options in Hawaii

Charity Gaming

Although lotteries are banned in Hawaii, there are some legal charity gaming options. Non-profit organizations can operate certain games like bingo and raffles with a permit from the state. These games help charities raise money for good causes in their communities.

In 2021, over $28 million was raised through permitted charitable gaming in Hawaii.

Pari-Mutuel Betting

Betting on horse racing is allowed through pari-mutuel wagering at two locations in Hawaii – Maui County Fair & Rodeo and Kauai County Fair. While far less lucrative than lotteries, horse race betting generated around $700,000 in state tax revenue in 2021.

However, this option is only available during the annual county fairs.

Social Gaming/Sweepstakes

Free-to-play social games and online sweepstakes have emerged as popular “workarounds” to Hawaii’s lottery ban. Companies like Banana Cash Games and Chicken Scratch operate real-money gaming sites where users can play slots and scratch cards for cash prizes.

While the legal status of these sites is questionable, their popularity highlights unmet consumer demand for gaming in Hawaii.

Perspectives on Establishing a Lottery in the Future

Declining State Tax Revenues

As Hawaii’s economy has struggled in recent years, state tax revenues have declined. This has led some to argue that establishing a lottery could provide an important new revenue stream for the state.

Hawaii is currently one of only five states with no lottery system. In fiscal year 2020, state lottery sales in the U.S. totaled over $71 billion. With tourism being such an important industry in Hawaii, some argue a lottery could tap into visitor spending.

Inevitability of Lotteries Eventually Coming

Those in favor of a lottery in Hawaii argue that as more and more states have adopted lotteries, it is inevitable that Hawaii will eventually follow suit. 45 out of 50 states currently have some form of lottery system.

Supporters argue that Hawaii is “leaving money on the table” by not having a lottery and that locals are just playing lotteries in other states anyway.

They argue technology has made playing out-of-state lotteries easier than ever. Websites like TheLotter allow players to buy official lottery tickets online for lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions no matter where they live.

This further reduces one of the barriers to Hawaii eventually adopting its own lottery.

Possible Shift in Public Opinion

Historically, efforts to establish a Hawaii state lottery have consistently failed to win enough public support. However, views may be shifting. A Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll in 2019 found 63% supported introducing games like Powerball to raise state revenues.

Support was highest among Hawaii’s younger residents.

Some see parallels with changing attitudes towards casino gaming. For decades, proposals for casinos in Hawaii were unpopular. However, recent proposals have seen wider support. If attitudes on gaming are evolving in the Aloha State, a shift in perspectives on a lottery may also occur.


As the last state standing without a lottery, Hawaii has a long history of rejecting proposals primarily based on cultural values, gambling addiction concerns, and tourism industry opposition. While state budget issues could eventually shift perspectives, there remains significant arguments and lobbying interests working against establishing a lottery.

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