Hawaii Real Money Online Gambling Guide

Hawaii depends heavily on its tourism, and has thus far decided that public gambling should not be part of their image, although they have always allowed their people to gamble in private all they wish. Whether or not gambling online can be understood as gambling in private or not, it happens out of sight of the state of Hawaii in any case, so it doesn’t really matter. Hawaiians are free to enjoy all the different types of real money online gambling, and we’ll show you how.

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Overview of Online Gambling in Hawaii

While Hawaii has no legal public gambling, it wasn’t always this way, as Hawaii only banned it in 1959, when it became a state. Hawaii has maintained a concern about how gambling might affect the image of the state and potentially impact its tourism revenue, although these days at least, this potential is only imagined.

While Hawaii continues to forestall serious consideration for opening up their public gambling market, this is far from a dry state as far as real money gambling goes, as long as you know where to look. We will explain to you what you can and can’t do in this state, and there’s a lot more that you can do than people realize.

History of Gambling in Hawaii

Hawaii Online Casinos and SlotsPeople have been gambling on various things in Hawaii since the 18th century, at a time where betting on horse races became a popular pastime among the wealthy of the day, which served as a place where they could congregate and show off and also enjoy the additional entertainment that the gambling provided.

Unlike in other parts of the country, this betting was not regulated and operated like underground gambling did, other than the fact that it wasn’t against the law. Many are confused about whether governments have to give their assent for people to gamble on something, but an absence of regulation means that something just isn’t regulated at all by governments and both people and operations are free to engage in the activity without restraint.

This betting died off in the 1940’s, not because it was outlawed but simply due to a lack of enough interest. After Hawaii became a state in 1959, the new state finally passed laws against gambling, against all gambling in fact, including horse racing just in case it became popular again.

There were people in the state that wanted to revive Hawaii’s pari-mutuel scene, and a bill was proposed to legalize and regulate it in Hawaii, but the bill fell on its face and died. With laws in place to ban it, regulation was now needed for it to be offered legally, and not being successful with this pushed all real money gambling in Hawaii underground.

The state believed that gambling would negatively impact its tourism business, and tourism is king in Hawaii. Over 10 million people visit the state every year, to enjoy its great weather and beaches, spending over $17 billion per year during their stays. The tourism industry employs over a quarter million people in the state, and this is an industry that Hawaii does not want to mess around with, even though their fears may be misguided.

There’s no good reason to believe that allowing gambling would harm Hawaii’s mega tourist business, although it might be more understandable that the state would worry about this back in 1959, at a time where society was considerably more prudish than today. The only state that had legal casino gambling in the country at the time was Nevada, and they don’t call Las Vegas Sin City for nothing, and far more people believed gambling was sinful 60 years ago than today, even though this view is still fairly widespread in some areas of the country.

It turned out that Hawaii and its tourists actually did have an appetite for gambling, much more so than in the only other state in the country that does not have legal pubic gambling, Utah, which objects on religious reasons and much of the people in the state take a dim view of gambling due to their Mormon beliefs.

Hawaii not only has very strict real money gambling laws, they are not afraid to enforce them, and have gone after underground gambling by rigorously enforcing its gambling laws. Hawaii has had several big gambling busts involving sports betting and illegal casino gambling rings, all of which is just as illegal as it was back in 1959 when gambling became banned.

Hawaii may have used the excuse of protecting their tourism business back when these laws were passed, but it turns out that the state just opposes gambling in principle. It’s hard to even imagine how having a state lottery or even charitable gambling would harm tourism, but the state has refused to even allow church bingo or the lottery. It’s hard to imagine anyone not coming to visit because they are worried about either.

Hawaii did do a study in 2010 to explore the option of online gambling, but the study would have been better directed toward measuring the appetite of state legislators to pass a law enabling this or any gambling for that matter. They would have saved themselves a lot of time, because the very idea of this became quickly struck down by lawmakers. Hawaii remains as far away from gambling as ever today.

Hawaii Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: HI
  • State Motto: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono (The Life of the Land Is Perpetuated in Righteousness)
  • Capital City: Honolulu
  • Largest City: Honolulu
  • Population Estimate: 1.41 Million (40th)
  • Website: portal.ehawaii.gov

Hawaii Gambling Laws

There are two sides to a state’s gambling law, which are their attempt to exclude gambling and then to have whatever they permit define legal gambling. Some states manage to exclude gambling better than others, and Hawaii does a great job of focusing on the proper elements to make gambling in general against the law.

In Hawaii, it is a crime to knowingly participate or facilitate gambling, which leaves the state’s definition of gambling to define what illegal gambling in the state is. Gambling in Hawaii involves risking “something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence.”

Both casino games and sports betting are clearly made illegal by this one sentence, as casino games are bets on the outcome of games of chance, and betting on sports involves a bet on a contingent event not in our control or influence.

What about poker, which is a game involving both chance and skill? Hawaii’s gambling law has been carefully written to exclude all forms of gambling, and their definition of a game of chance as chance affecting the outcome to a material degree, regardless of whether there is an element of skill, successfully includes poker as well in the scope of their gambling definition.

Hawaii gambling law is so inclusive that it even goes as far as to mention that gambling is illegal in spite of third parties receiving the winnings, just in case someone wanted to claim that they gambled and didn’t themselves risk anything of value and that it was someone else’s money.

Hawaii did an excellent job of banning all real money gambling to set the stage for their exclusively defining what gambling is legal and where, but they haven’t done very much on the permitting side. Hawaii is thought of as only one of two states with no public gambling at all, together with Utah, but Hawaii does indeed have legal gambling, just not legal public gambling.

In some states, we have to rule out private gambling being illegal due to it not fitting the definition of illegal gambling in the state, but ideally, in states that wish to make social gambling legal, they will explicitly permit it as well as defining the conditions of its legality clearly.

Hawaii aces this part as well, and even adds a nice twist by allowing social gambling as a “defense” to gambling. This means the same thing as it is permitted without having to admit that this is what they are doing. In a state that is this ultra conservative toward gambling, they do not want to appear too permissive presumably.

Social gambling gets is very own section, with 6 conditions that must be conformed to in order to qualify for this defense. Players must only compete with each other. No one profits other than from their own winnings as players. No third parties host or assist in the hosting of the gambling. The gambling does not occur in a public place. Players must be the age of majority. No bookmaking is permitted.

The bookmaking addition is an interesting one, which serves to exclude players setting odds with one another, when even players betting against one another will be required to engage in bookmaking when they bet on events with uneven odds, like a strong team against a weaker one. Betting straight up with sports bets couldn’t really be understood as bookmaking though.

This addition does speak to how inclusive Hawaii gambling law is, that they have even thought of this where it is rarely mentioned in the laws of other states that permit social gambling. Hawaii does a good enough job that there should be no uncertainty about the gambling it allows and does not allow, and the not allowed part includes everything else.

In some very conservative states on the mainland, they may not allow gambling in their territory but do allow cruise ships to offer gambling at sea and dock in their state. Hawaii does not even want this, and Hawaii not only bans gambling on ships but it makes their possession of any gambling devices while in Hawaii territory illegal. Charitable organizations aren’t allowed to offer gambling either. Hawaii completely shuts out all public gambling without exception.

Land-Based Gambling in Hawaii

Land-based gambling opportunities in Hawaii can be summed up very simply. They have no casinos, race tracks that you can bet on, or any other form of legal public gambling, including no lottery or even charitable gambling. All public gambling is against the law in Hawaii, in any form.

It could be worse though, as Hawaii could also make private gambling illegal as well, but oddly enough, the state has no problem at all with people gambling in private, provided that only players benefit from the games.

Some states have a requirement that the players have some sort of existing social relationship to be allowed to gamble together, which is one of the reasons why this is often called social gambling, but Hawaii doesn’t care about these things. They mostly just want it kept out of the public view, and therefore this social gambling is not allowed in any public place. You can gamble all you want in private though.

Hawaii’s private gambling does allow the locals to gamble at will, but tourists who come over are going to be limited to the facilities they visit and don’t generally know a lot of people who live there who can invite them to their houses to gamble. Once again though, it’s about keeping the tourists away from gambling, hoping that out of sight means out of mind.

Hawaii Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Some states have legalized real money online gambling, but these tend to be the states that take the most progressive views towards gambling. When you do not have any legal public gambling at all as Hawaii does not, Hawaii isn’t exactly on the progressive spectrum and sit at the opposite end of this.

Hawaii is a long way away from ever approving online gambling, although oddly enough, online gambling may be seen as more tolerable than other forms, perhaps even more so than the lottery, as tame as that may be.

Hawaii has had at least a little push toward online gambling a decade ago, and while this did fall well short of garnishing enough support, it at least had some support, as opposed to land-based gambling which is seen as even more objectionable.

Online gambling is at least out of the public view, the thing that the Hawaiian government has remained so concerned about. In Hawaii, image is everything, and gambling is not an image they want to associate with in the open. Letting people gamble online affects their perception of their image much less than letting casinos open up in Honolulu, for instance.

While some might think that online gambling is done in private and therefore might qualify as legal gambling in the state, Hawaii defines allowable private gambling very strictly, and gambling that involves a third party benefiting, such as an online gambling site, just isn’t allowed.

The idea that the state of Hawaii could ever stop anyone from gambling online is a grand illusion though. You don’t get much more opposed to gambling than they are in Saudi Arabia for instance, who even cane people for gambling, and the rulers there are not restrained by a constitution or privacy laws and can spy on you all they want. They still can’t stop anyone from gambling online though because there just isn’t a way to do it besides taking away everyone’s internet.

That’s what they do in North Korea, and that does work pretty well, because if you can’t go online you can’t gamble at real money online sites either. Only high ranking North Korean officials can access the internet, and we are left to wonder whether any of these people do gamble online.

They prefer the rest of the country not see the outside world and be kept on a strict diet of messages approved by the state, so the main reason behind this is to restrict access to information for political reasons and not so much to keep them from gambling online, although it serves to do that as well.

It turns out that Hawaiians can and always could gamble online all they want, regardless of what the government may want. Travelling online is very much like travelling to other parts of the world, where electronics can take us vast distances in the blink of an eye. In the blink of an eye you can be playing casino games in Malta or the Caribbean or at a number of other places where it is fully legal.

Online gambling in Hawaii is very much alive and well, where all you need to know is that your gambling goes on completely outside the view of the state of Hawaii, know where the best places to play online for Hawaiians are, and then travel to these places virtually and start enjoying all the fun. You provide the desire, and we’ll provide the best places to go.

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Future of Gambling in Hawaii

There may not be the appetite for gambling among Hawaiians than we see in states where gambling is much more widespread and popular, there may be no other place in the country that has anything like the potential for growth as far as gambling goes than Hawaii.

Hawaii is starting from zero, the number of casinos that they have now, and we can only imagine how big the casino industry could become if given birth and allowed to thrive. This would also expand their tourism business substantially, and all we have to look at is how many people who fly to Vegas to gamble to see how powerful gambling tourism can be.

Hawaii is a much more hospitable place than a city in the desert where people stay indoors most of the time, the opposite end of this spectrum from Las Vegas you could say. Imagine a place people consider to be paradise having world class casinos like Vegas does. This is a pretty clear case of if you build it, they will come, and Hawaii just needs to get comfortable enough with building it to cash in on all of this.

Public gambling is not homogenous, and ranges in quality from some of the most fabulous structures ever built to people shooting dice in an alley on the poor side of town. If Hawaii is so concerned about its image, it could confine its casinos to truly impressive structures which would add and not detract from the view, and if anything, add prestige to their tourism.

There is still a fair bit of reluctance in Hawaii based upon gambling itself being still seen as undesirable, and once they get over that, we may then see them look at all the potential money that they could make the state by opening their eyes to gambling more.

Until then, we’ll have to wait for land-based gambling to hit Hawaii’s shores, but even with none, there’s still lots that Hawaiians can gamble at, including but certainly not limited to playing home games with friends. With all the great real money online gambling that Hawaiians can easily take advantage of, including sports betting, real money online poker, and real money casino games, their cup isn’t empty at all, and it’s pretty full actually overall.

Allow us to show you all the great options we have for you based upon our expert and unbiased guidance, where we will show you the way to the best there is out there to ensure your real money online gambling experiences are the best you can make them.

Hawaii Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • Did Hawaii ever have legal gambling?

    Back when Hawaii was a colony, betting on horse races was popular, particularly among the more prominent residents who would use going to the races as a social event. We see this elsewhere, but the difference was that this did not attract much of a base among the general public in Hawaii. Once these social events went more out of style, these racetracks just went away on their own.

  • When did gambling in Hawaii become illegal?

    It’s not uncommon for states to ban gambling the very year that they become a state, and this is exactly what happened in Hawaii. The year was 1959, a time when legal gambling in the United States was in a real lull, with only a few states offering horse race betting and Nevada, which was the only state where there was more than this. Hawaii joined a good number of states at the time that had no legal gambling at all.

  • What is it legal to gamble at in Hawaii?

    Even though Hawaii is widely thought to be one of two states in the country to have no legal gambling whatsoever, they come to this conclusion not by looking at the law but to look at what gambling can be done openly. Private gambling in Hawaii is explicitly legal provided the gambling is only between players with no other involvement and is not conducted in a public place.

  • What is it against the law to gamble at in Hawaii?

    Any other form of gambling besides private gambling conducted as prescribed by law is illegal. Hawaii succeeds in making it completely clear that any form of gambling that you could think of would be illegal, when value is being exchanged as a result of the wagering, and Hawaii is so thorough that it also prohibits gambling using other people’s money. This wasn’t even needed as risking something of value doesn’t imply you are bearing the risk yourself.

  • Why did Hawaii ban real money gambling?

    Back when Hawaii made gambling illegal, there was a push to legalize pari-mutuel wagering again. The reasons why Hawaii opposed this was said to not put their tourism business at risk by allowing gambling. They were worried that Hawaii wouldn’t appear to be as family friendly of a destination, and were also concerned that some would be offended enough by it to go elsewhere. This may have been true in 1959 to some extent but isn’t today.

  • What are the chances of more gambling being permitted in Hawaii soon?

    To understand how dim of a view that Hawaii takes toward gambling, we need to look no further than their not allowing the lottery or even charitable bingo. Some states see gambling operators as predatory and this is why commercial gambling gets such a bad rap, but when you are against charitable gambling, you are against gambling period. This is what needs to change in Hawaii, their not seeing gambling overall in such a negative light.

  • Is it against the law to gamble online in Hawaii?

    Just because it’s against the law to gamble at a certain game like poker at a land-based game, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s against the law to gamble at it online. This all depends on what we can’t do in Hawaii, and when we play online, whether we are playing in Hawaii or the country where the servers are is an open question. Hawaii instead makes it against the law to bet on these things, which occurs in Hawaii and makes online gambling there illegal.

  • Why does Hawaii law not matter if you’re gambling online?

    In spite of there not being any uncertainty about real money online gambling of any sort being completely illegal, the reason why this matters is that there are normally consequences to breaking the law, the risk of arrest, conviction, and punishment. With land based gambling, there is always the risk of being caught, but since there’s no way to catch you gambling online in Hawaii or elsewhere, there are no consequences to not abiding by this law.

  • Are there good real money online sites that Hawaiians can gamble at now?

    Simply by choosing to gamble online in spite of Hawaii’s vain attempt to strip people of this liberty, where you and not the state decide what you will spend your own money on, you have the power to expose the meaninglessness of Hawaii’s gambling laws as they pertain to real money online gambling. All you need besides just choosing to do it is an internet connection a little money to deposit, and the right guidance to open the door to all the real money online gambling you wish.

  • How can Hawaiians discover the best places to gamble at online?

    There are many countries and territories out there that take a much more favorable view of online gambling than Hawaii does, completely favorable in fact, and many sites located there who are very happy to take Hawaiians on as players. Just like anything else, these selections vary by quality, and the only way to ensure that you are making the right real money online gambling site choices is to get the expert guidance that we offer you.


Associate Writer: Geoff enjoys both live and online poker as well as casino games, and is particularly knowledgeable about the legal landscape of online gambling.