State Lottery Bill Advances At Legislature For Further Discussion

Feb 11, 2021

The state is considering a measure that would create a state lottery system to fund public education. But some think it may hurt low income families.

Senate Bill 816 would establish a state lottery that could begin as early as January 1, 2023. 40% of all revenue from the lottery would be split equally among the University of Hawaii, state Department of Education, and the general fund.

The lottery would be open to those 18 and older.

But Tom Yamachika from the Tax Foundation says some studies have shown that lotteries hurt lower income earners.

"There are studies where researchers have concluded that lotteries have a reverse 'Robin Hood' effect, namely the take from the poor and give to the rich," Yamachika said.

"And this is because for a lot of people who are poor, they don't see the way to get out of their situation except by winning the lottery."

Yamachika adds those with higher incomes have more options to improve their livelihoods.

Philip Johnson from the Honolulu Police Department echoed some of Yamachika's concerns. He says a lottery could result in social problems connected with lottery and gambling.

While the Tax Foundation did not take a position on the measure, HPD opposes it.

The state department of education also did not take a position on the measure, but is looking at steep budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In her written testimony, school superintendent Christina Kishimoto emphasized the possible $141 million cut to the department.

She wrote that the measure could offer the department predictability and stability for education funding. 

The Senate's education committee passed SB 816 out of committe yesterday for further discussion.