Attorney for man arrested in gambling ring plans to fight charges

An attorney for one of the defendants arrested in a 414 count indictment regarding illegal sweepstakes machines claims the liquor commission said it was “okay” for the machines to be placed in bars. It’s one of several arguments he will make when pleas are entered this coming week.

Four defendants have already been arrested. Five others are still at large and when they are taken into custody, they face a variety of charges. One man who was arrested was Gene Simeona because of the so-called Sweepstakes machines. His attorney said he plans a vigorous defense.

“How can, on the one hand, the city and county liquor commission approved these machines to be in bars and then on the other hand, the prosecutors office prosecutes these people for using these machines. I mean it makes no sense.” Defense Attorney Thomas Otake said.

The fine line here is – legal in bars but not entertainment centers. But a federal court judge ruled last week, the sweepstakes machines are gambling devices. Gambling is illegal in Hawaii.

“Well, we have the arraignment on Thursday. We’ll plead not guilty and we look forward to filing a variety of motions challenging this indictment on a variety of legal grounds.” Otake said.

One young woman who did not want to be identified discovered her mother was throwing a considerable amount of money into the sweepstakes machines. About two to three thousand dollars a week.

As much as the money loss hurt the family, the daughter is concerned for her mother’s safety.

“All the underground gamblers are now starting to surface. And some of these people are dangerous. It’s not so much the addiction, it’s the people that are in these places.” The gamblers daughter said. “She should know better. It is an addiction, but people should know their limits…Especially when they have a family to feed.”

The gambler’s daughter has three younger sisters still living at home and she is concerned about their welfare.

The Honolulu City Council is moving on a measure to outlaw the machines, and is set to be heard again Wednesday afternoon at Kapolei Hale.

Trial defendants will answer charges in the indictment on Thursday.

See related: Gambling indictment connected to sweepstakes machines results in arrests


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