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Honolulu prosecutor warns game rooms vs. gambling

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News,Business,Crime,Gambling,Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu prosecutor's office sent a letter warning game room operators that certain machines are illegal gambling devices, leading a chain of arcades to shutter its nine Oahu locations.

The cease-and-desist letter signed by Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro says machine owners can face prosecution if they don't get rid of them, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday (http://ow.ly/wQw2q ).

"Winner'z Zone is stunned by the delivery of a cease-and-desist order pertaining to our games," company spokeswoman Ruth Limtiaco said in a statement. "Winner'z Zone business model is to operate within the law, and we are currently seeking advisement from our legal counsel regarding the games listed on the cease-and-desist order."

Kaneshiro's letter came after a grand jury indictment earlier this month charged nine people with promoting gambling, possessing gambling devices and other charges. On April 30, a federal judge ruled in a civil case that people who use Products Direct Sweepstakes machines are gambling, which is illegal in Hawaii.

The letter says machines that allow players to bet on games of chance with the opportunity to win cash rewards constitute gambling.

Winner'z Zone claims they don't operate games of chance and likened their games to those in arcades.

Victor Bakke, an attorney who represented game room employees arrested in 2012 and got them released, said the prosecutor should have sought the opinion of the attorney general on whether the devices are illegal.

"The prosecutor did not have a basis to say this was illegal," he said. "They were waiting for the judge's decision."

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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