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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
There are already more than dozen sweepstakes gaming locations in Hawaii with more planned to be opened soon. Some lawmakers say it's illegal gambling but companies say they're on solid legal ground.
Since our original story on the internet sweepstakes machines we found various other locations as well including in nail salons.
The games inside J&W Nails in the Enchanted Lake Shopping Center offer slots, Blackjack and poker. A side distraction perhaps while letting nails dry.
Customers buy internet time which is also used as credits in order to play the games and win money. However it's a sweepstakes and there's no purchase necessary. If you sign a waiver stating you understand you are purchasing prepaid internet/computer usage time and acknowledge it is a sweepstake you can get a card instantly with a dollar of free time. You can get one dollar a day free every 24 hours which gets it around gambling laws.
Winnerz Zone now has six locations including its newest in Waikiki. Then there is this new spot on Iolani Avenue called Pure Action. Those locations offer the Products Direct Sweepstakes machines. People buy discount coupons to shop at online sites. That coupon also gives you an entry into the sweepstakes games where you could be an instant winner or you can play the casino style games and try to win money.
"We've actually presented these machines to the Honolulu Liquor Commission and received the stamp of approval that these machines are legal allowing us to place machines in certain establishments that have liquor licenses," said Matt Matsunaga, Attorney for PJY Enterprises, which distributes the Products Direct Sweepstakes machines made by Pace-O-Matic.
Matsunaga says there are three criteria to be considered gambling, you must pay to play, it is a game of chance and there is a cash payout. He says they eliminate the pay to play because there is no purchase necessary.
Although read the fine print on the machines and to get the free play you have get a "request code" from the machine you want to play, then mail the code and other information on a handwritten note on a 3x5 index card to the mainland. They mail you back a code for $1 in up to four weeks. Subtract the stamp and you'll have equivalent of less than 60 cents to play with.
"That standard has been somewhat traditionally accepted in the state," said Matsunaga.
The Honolulu Police Department says "it has received many complaints and inquiries about electronic video machines that appear to circumvent Hawaii's gambling laws. We are presently looking at the different types of machines and promotions and are working closely with the Prosecutor's Office to determine an appropriate course of action."
The Honolulu Prosecutors Office "is aware of the internet sweepstakes operations and is working with police in trying to determine their legality."
The state Attorney General's office says it hasn't received any complaints and is not investigating at this point.
So at least for now the games will go on just try not to get nail polish on the machines.