20 arrested as police raid suspected game rooms in Punchbowl area

Police raid suspected game rooms in Punchbowl neighborhood
Published: Nov. 22, 2017 at 2:55 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2017 at 8:17 AM HST
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PUNCHBOWL (HawaiiNewsNow) - At least 20 people were arrested for various warrants and gambling-related offenses after a raid on illegal gambling operations in the Punchbowl area.

The sting happened Saturday, and it's part of a broader crackdown on gaming rooms.

During the raid, cops also seized several illegal video game machines from two businesses in a building on Lusitana Street.

"Just think of it, if you went to Vegas, video game machines, what do you picture in mind? A poker, a bingo, a casino game, anything where you would insert money," said Capt. Aaron Takasaki-Young of the Honolulu Police Department. "It's a game of chance and then you get some type of monetary reward."

Officers executed search warrants at MK Market and a business upstairs that had no sign, Hawaii News Now has learned.

"I know that people had to push that outside buzzer to get in," said Gayle Volger, who lives near the building that was raided.

Takasaki-Young said common indicators of a game room include surveillance cameras and covered windows.

"They can be secluded or areas that people aren't used to entering, but it also can be considered, as you probably heard, some mom and pop stores do have some illegal machines," he said.

Volger said she feels safer now with fewer people coming and going at all hours.

"It's more the congregation of people outside this area that hang out that disturbs me," she said.

The busts come after a series of violent crimes in the last few months involving game rooms. In October, sources told Hawaii News Now that a man had pulled out a semi-automatic pistol inside an Ala Moana-area gambling den.

There was a shooting at a suspected game room in Mapunapuna in July.

And in May, sources said a Punchbowl home robbery – where the suspects dressed up as law enforcement officers – was game room-related.

"What we want to let the public know is despite the amount of game rooms here, HPD is trying its best that we can to deal with the problem," said Takasaki-Young.

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