Authorities, lawmakers cracking down on illegal game rooms

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu police have recently made multiple illegal game room busts. The illegal establishments are being found in both commercial districts and residential communities.

More than two dozen gambling machines, cash and drugs were seized from two illegal game rooms in Kakaako in January, 2021. Residents say the illegal game rooms are also leading to other problems and safety concerns.

“Many times you have, you know, people loitering two, three o’clock in the morning, fights, violence, and in some cases, residents hearing gunshots right outside their homes,” said Jacob Aki, former Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board member. “It’s become more rampant in recent years.”

Honolulu police have made two busts so far in February — one in Waimanalo and another on Sand Island where more than a dozen gambling machines and cash were seized.

Rep. Sonny Ganaden, who represents Sand Island and Kalihi Kai, says some of these game rooms return in the same areas. It is a constant cycle for some of his constituents.

“They complain about the same pieces of property often. So, a game room will open. It will be shut down. It will be reopened with new operators,” said Rep. Sonny Ganaden, (D) Kalihi Kai, Sand Island, Halawa.

A measure has been introduced in the Senate to crack down on game room operators and property owners even if they are not on the property when a bust is made.

“Law enforcement is now going to have additional powers to come in and stop the activities. In addition to that, the landowner’s property is now up for seizure.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D) Wahiawa, Mililani Mauka

Sen. Dela Cruz said, he is hopeful this will reduce the number of illegal game rooms in the state and they will revisit the issue again in 2021 if it does not.

Aki said, residents just want something that will work.

“They come and they plead for help, they try to make their case but it’s a long drawn out process, you know and it’s not a quick fix and not something that can be solved overnight. My hope is that, you know, both the Legislature and our law enforcement agencies, you know, come up with a mechanism to make sure that these game rooms, once they’re closed down, that they don’t pop up again,” said Aki.

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