Suspected gambling machines to get a day in court

Suspected gambling machines to get a day in court

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 180 suspected illegal gambling machines on Oahu have been seized in raids that began in September 2012. The distributor of those machines will finally get a court to rule on whether or not they are illegal.

"We're within the law," said Tracy Yoshimura of PJY Enterprises. "We're not committing any crimes. That's the important thing for us."

Yoshimura's company distributes the Products Direct Sweepstakes machines, which he said gives a customer free entries in a sweepstakes when the customer purchases discount coupons that can be used for the purchase of products on the Products Direct website.

According to Yoshimura, the machines have games of chance that reveal if the customer has won a prize in the sweepstakes. These games of chance can be played through the customer submitting a written request for free entry codes.

He contends that they are legal, and pointed out that the company has 484 user accounts, which currently hold more than $1.2 million in coupons.

Yoshimura also said he received approval from the Honolulu Liquor Commission to distribute the machines.

"For the next 12 months we went to the commission for an additional 40 approvals, all of which were public hearings again, and at none of those hearings did anyone from prosecutors, attorney general's, HPD (Honolulu Police Department), show up to voice any type of opposition doing that," he said.

Last week, Federal Judge Leslie Kobayashi dismissed a motion from Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, who had asked the court to rule that the machines are illegal gambling machines. Instead, the question of whether or not they are legal will go to trial.

Yoshimura said he believes seizing his machines is a waste of time and money that could be better used to cut down on a backlog of parole and probation violation warrants.

"Eleven hundred parole violation or probation violation warrants that are unserved on Honolulu or Oahu alone," said Yoshimura. "Keith's excuse for that was that they don't have the manpower and the police are overburdened with the load that they have. I mean, go figure, it's pretty easy to see why."

Yoshimura said he offered to settle out of court, but said the city would only do that if he stopped operation the machines, which he refuses to do.

"Even if we go bankrupt and I end up homeless on the beach, this problem, this lawsuit, will not go away."

The prosecutor's office earlier had said it could not comment on the ongoing investigation. Hawaii News Now is awaiting comment from the city corporation counsel, which is handling the Federal court case.

Meanwhile, no criminal charges have been filed over the machines.

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