Sweepstakes machines versus arcade games, what's the difference? - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Sweepstakes machines versus arcade games, what's the difference?

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Lawyers for game room owners say the 'sweepstakes machines' are similar to popular arcade devices even the McDonald's Monopoly game.

"These businesses have been operating in broad daylight for years," says Thomas Otake who represents Eugene Simeona.  Simeona and two other game room owners, Mike Miller and Tracy Yoshimura -- face multiple felony counts including racketeering, promoting gambling, and money laundering. 

"My client and the others have tried their best to run a legal business," he says. 

Otake says the city's Liquor Commission even gave the owners permits to operate the devices.

Altogether, nine people have been arrested, the owners and six workers.   Mike Madali worked at the Lucky Touch 2 game room.  He was the last to turn himself in Tuesday. 

"I was just an employee," says Madali after bailing out of jail.

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro says the machines are tools for gambling and say undercover officers went into the game rooms for years to prove the case.

Here's how the devices work.  A player puts money into the machine and gets coupons which can be redeemed for products online.  But police sources say few people used the coupons which were often found littered all over the floor and in garbage cans.  It was the receipt that followed the coupons that printed the amount the player had actually won.  And according to sources, the receipt would be turned in to the clerk for cash.  

Owners say they machines were legal because they offered players a way to use the devices for free by mailing in a request.

A separate federal ruling came down last week saying the machines were illegal and owners say say when that happened, all the machines were shut off. 

The city indictment was already in motion by then and Kaneshiro called the timing, a coincidence.