Police raid Maalaea arcade

The entrance to the Temple of Pharaohs video arcade was taped off while a search warrant was executed Monday morning at the Maalaea Harbor Shops. • Maui Police Department photo

Maui police executed a search warrant, seized 25 gaming machines and arrested two people Monday morning at the Temple of the Pharaohs, whose owner has said that his Maalaea establishment is a legal skill-based video arcade that pays off in cash.

Police spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto said Monday that officers had received information and complaints about possible illegal gaming machines inside the establishment, which opened late last month in the Maalaea Harbor Shops.

Search warrants were obtained, which were executed at about 11 a.m. Monday, he said. Police seized 25 illegal gaming machines and arrested two people. No charges were filed, and the investigation is ongoing.

On Monday night, Okamoto did not know the status of the two people arrested.

Gaming machines were observed on trailers hitched to police vehicles in the shopping center parking lot Monday.

Maui police executed a search warrant and seized 25 gaming machines at the Temple of Pharaohs at the Maalaea Harbor Shops at about 11 a.m. Monday. Two arrests were made as well. • KEVIN J. OLSON photo

Temple of the Pharaohs owner Jon Van Cleave of Wailea told The Maui News last week that his business, which opened Sept. 22 in a 4,500-square-foot location next to the Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Store, is “100 percent legal” and has “nothing to hide.”

“These (games) remove all chance,” Van Cleave said. “No one can ever say these are games of gambling.”

The arcade featured 18 slot-style games and seven fish-shooting games in a spread reminiscent of the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. Visitors to the establishment had to be 21 years of age or older.

Van Cleave said his machines may look and play like typical slot machines, but they are so-called “no chance games,” or more commonly known as “pre-reveal” games. A mandatory preview feature displays the outcome of each possible game before players use money to play.

“You can always make it so you never lose,” he said. “You’re seeing the results ahead of time, every time. There’s no real risk to people.”

One of the more popular games is the fish shooter that can seat up to eight players. Players feed money into the game — which double as bullets — to shoot and kill fish. The more fish killed, the more money players win.

Each shot costs a nickel, but players can change their weapons to make their bullets more powerful — and costlier. The bigger shots would theoretically bring down larger fish for a better score.

“People win a lot of money here. We had a thousand-dollar winner here about a half an hour ago,” Van Cleave said late last month. “We had one lady come in, and she won $1,700 and came in the next day and won another $1,000.”

He said that the state’s gambling law is vague and allows cash return games as long as they are substantially skill-based.

Van Cleave could not be reached for comment or to say whether he still is in business Monday afternoon. The company’s Facebook page had apparently been taken down Monday afternoon.

Okamoto said that vice officers executed similar search warrants in June on two separate game rooms in Wailuku. Following those searches, numerous illegal gaming machines were seized and 10 people were arrested.

Those investigations are ongoing as well, he said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.