A day after its arcade on Waiakamilo Road was raided by the police, WZ Family Entertainment Center is still wondering what it did wrong.
On Friday, the outlet in Waiakamilo was all business as the staff geared up for the crowd expected at a carnival.
But the scene was much different on Thursday, when police, armed with a search warrant, converged on the entertainment outlet and confiscated what they said were gambling devices.
After authorities began a crackdown on gambling devices, the owners closed down and re-branded the company, formerly known as Winner’z Zone, and spent thousands of dollars on consultants who modified the machines and operations at their outlets to comply with the law.
They reopened the Waiakamilo location just two weeks ago.
“The second we reopened, with our new games and our new model, we were raided and it’s extremely disappointing,” said co-owner Tiana Haraguchi. “In a way, we feel we’re being singled out.”
“I would also say it’s surprising to us because we’ve consulted and have spoken with the prosecution,” said the company’s attorney Howard Luke. “We have not taken a position where we’re defiant or fighting the prosecution or the police.”
The owners say they are doing it differently this time. The machines have been modified so there is no money exchanged and there are no cash prizes.
KHON2 spoke to a regular customer of the arcade, and he says he can also accumulate credit to go shopping — either for prizes at the outlet or at select stores.
“They have a sign at the desk there, you get e-credit for what you purchase,” said customer Richard Waters. “There are no money exchanges.”
One of the machines the police confiscated on Thursday was a Fish Hunter type machine the city prosecutor says is a gambling device. It was listed on a cease and desist letter issued to establishments last May.
The owner says the police also took away their computer server.
Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro repeated his intent in an interview the day before the raid.
“Gambling is illegal in Hawaii. You can do it at other places where it’s legal. In Hawaii, it’s illegal,” said Kaneshiro, “and we will continue to enforce the law.”
Luke says his client is reviewing options, but says he would rather try to work something out with the authorities rather than go to court.