Councilmember wants to make sweepstakes machines illegal

Sweepstakes machines have been the target of numerous raids by Honolulu Police.

Now there’s a new push to make the controversial machines illegal.

Over the past 18 months, police have seized hundreds of these types of machines. Some of the establishments have even closed. One Honolulu City Councilmember wants to make these devices illegal on Oahu, and introduced a bill that would do that.

“Why have you introduced this bill?” KHON2 asked.

“So basically we’ve been getting a lot of complaints,” Honolulu City Councilmember Joey Manahan said.

Manahan says he has three of these types of establishments in his district. And he says people keep telling him what goes on there.

“Such as fights, alleged drug dealing, a lot of noise complaints, a lot of people being drunk after hours,” he said.

“The majority of these instances that they’re talking about aren’t happening at our locations,” said Tracy Yoshimura, owner of Prize World owner Tracy Yoshimura .

Yoshimura is the exclusive distributor of these sweepstakes machines. HPD seized 200 of his machines but Yoshimura says he’s never been charged.

“How are these machines legal?” KHON2 asked.

“They’re legal because, we’ve said it over and over again. The word sweepstakes up here, they’re not paying directly to pay these games,” Yoshimura said.

Manahan’s bill, would prohibit simulated gambling machines. Yoshimura says his attorneys say the bill is too broad, and could make childrens’ arcade games, illegal. Yoshimura believes people are misinformed about what these machines really do.

“When the person inserts money into the machine, what they’re purchasing is discount coupon worth double the value the cash that’s put into the machine,” Yoshimura said.

He says it’s all for fun, and people enjoy them. But Manahan says this isn’t your regular arcade.

“Not when you’re open ’til 4 a.m. and you’ve been raided by HPD,” Manahan said.

The first reading of the bill will happen later this month.

Meanwhile, the city has a case against Yoshimura, claiming his machines are illegal. That case heads to federal court next month.

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