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Honolulu police, lawmakers target illegal game rooms

HONOLULU (AP) — Authorities in Hawaii have cracked down on illegal game room establishments found in both commercial districts and residential communities on Oahu this year.

The Honolulu Police Department has seized cash and more than a dozen gambling machines across two illegal game rooms in February — one in Waimanalo and another on Sand Island, KHON-TV reported.

The department said last month more than two dozen gambling machines, cash and drugs were seized from another two locations in Kakaako, a neighborhood in Honolulu.

Residents have raised concerns that the game rooms are contributing to other problems and safety concerns.

“Many times you have, you know, people loitering 2, 3 o’clock in the morning, fights, violence, and in some cases, residents hearing gunshots right outside their homes,” said Jacob Aki, a resident and former Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board member. “It’s become more rampant in recent years.”

Democratic state Rep. Sonny Ganaden, who represents Sand Island and Kalihi Kai, has said some of the gambling activity has returned to the same areas, creating what he called a constant cycle.

“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,” Ganaden said.

Aki said he hopes authorities can come up with a solution to stop illegal game rooms from reopening once they are closed down.

“It’s not a quick fix and not something that can be solved overnight,” Aki said.

Democratic state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz said 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 during arrests.

“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,” said Dela Cruz, who is sponsoring the measure.

Dela Cruz said he hopes the measure will reduce the number of illegal game rooms operating in the state. If it does not, he announced plans to revisit the issue later this year.

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