Hawaii and federal authorities target gambling operations

HONOLULU — Hawaii and federal law enforcement agencies have announced they are targeting illegal gambling operations on Oahu.

Authorities have charged 15 people and seized 60 illegal gambling machines as part of the crackdown by cooperating agencies.

Officials representing the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Honolulu Police Department are targeting illegal game room operators, officials said.

Three indictments, two criminal complaints and a civil lawsuit have been filed as part of the ongoing operation. Six of the 15 people charged were still at large Tuesday, authorities said.

The agencies have identified about 80 game rooms in Oahu commercial and residential areas and charged 12 people with operating game rooms in single-family homes, officials said.

The operation is sending “a very clear message” to illegal game room owners, said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price.

“Our goal is to take your property through civil or criminal forfeiture,” Price said. “And if you or anyone else you know happens to get a cut of the proceeds of illegal gambling, we’ll be trying to seize that, too.”

Illegal gambling attracts other crimes including robbery and arson, Price said. He noted one indictment charges a game room operator with setting fire to a warehouse after the landlord learned about illegal gambling there and took steps for an eviction.

Police have also seen gun and knife crimes linked to game rooms, said Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard.

“We are going to go after those who are committing these crimes,” Ballard said.

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