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Illegal game rooms, booming amid the pandemic, are moving into residential areas

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 11:30 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 11:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department said it is conducting more raids of illegal gaming in residential areas on Oahu during the pandemic.

In recent weeks police have raided illegal gaming rooms — almost weekly — in residential neighborhoods in Aiea, Kalihi and Waikiki.

Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions to Las Vegas and other gaming venues, the HPD said demand is booming.

“Vegas has been shut down pretty much so these people feel the need to gamble somewhere,” said HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy.

“The trend is game rooms have been started moving out of industrial areas into the residential areas.”

Honolulu City Councilman Tommy Waters lives down the street from a suspected gaming house. He said there are several others in his district.

“There are three game rooms in my district. That’s really concerning,” he said.

“You have people hanging out late at night coming and going. And it’s dangerous.”

Besides attracting a criminal element, many residents worry that the suspected gaming houses are trashing their neighborhoods.

For example, one suspected game room at a homestead in Kapolei was beginning to resemble a junkyard before neighbors shut it down in July.

Police urge the public to call 911 if they suspect there’s a gaming room in their neighborhood.

Waters said more has to be done.

“I think it would be a good idea to arrest the folks who are utilizing the room but also arrest the folks who are perhaps the landlords,” he said.

“We should also look at confiscating the property.”

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