Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightMore than 75% of the 1,000 Hawaii residents who participated in a recent survey said they would visit a Waikiki-based entertainment center if it featured showrooms for local musicians and performers as well as movie theaters and a casino.

Results of the survey, paid for by the Waikiki Improvement Association and completed by the Honolulu-based firm SMS Research & Marketing, were released Jan. 19 and showed that 54% of the respondents said they go to Waikiki less often than they used to due in large part to crowds, traffic, limited or expensive parking or because they have no real reason to go.

“Although much progress has been made in Waikiki the last 10 years, we were not sure how local perceptions of Waikiki had changed,” Rick Egged, president and CEO of the WIA, said in a statement. “We have heard many people say they don’t go to Waikiki any more, but we really had no reliable data to quantify those numbers, or explain what it would take to bring local residents back to Waikiki.”

Asked what they would like to see improved in Waikiki, surveyed residents mentioned more live shows, shopping, cheaper parking, nightlife activities, and casinos. There currently are no plans to construct such a complex in Waikiki.

Although respondents showed strong support for an entertainment center, there was less enthusiasm for legalized gambling: 58% of the participants said legalizing gambling would be good for the state’s economy, while 54% said legalized gambling in Hawaii would ultimately have negative effects.

Hawaii and Utah are the only states in the nation that do not allow any form of state-regulated gambling.

Bills intended to legalize some type of state-sanctioned gaming are introduced almost annually in the Hawaii legislature, and according to a Jan. 20 Honolulu Star Advertiser report, lawmakers expect this year’s session, which opened Jan. 18, to produce similar proposals without any change in the existing law.

“There’s enough to do in Waikiki without a casino,” State Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, who represents Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, said in the Star Advertiser report. “But the question of gaming is not going to go away.”

Egged stressed that the survey was commissioned to better understand Hawaii residents’ attitudes toward Waikiki overall and what it would take to attract more local people to the highly popular tourist destination.

“WIA has never taken a position for or against gambling in Hawaii,” he added. “But since it will be considered at this year’s legislature, we thought it was important to determine the impact of any such changes before making decisions.”
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