By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Police raids on three suspected illegal gambling operations late last month in Hilo netted $17,632.72 in cash, according to court documents.
The documents show that $10,375.72 in suspected gambling proceeds were confiscated for possible forfeiture at Da Little Game Shack at 165 East Kawili St. At 777 Arcade at 500 Manono St., $4,864 was reportedly seized, while a sweep at Tilt arcade in the Prince Kuhio Plaza turned up $2,358. All the raids took place on July 20.
Police reported 33 video slot machines taken from the three arcades. Twenty-two video slot machines came from Da Little Game Shack, with titles including Fun in the Sun, Sweet Road Freedom, Nudge Gone Wild, Twin Spin Nudge, Super Duo, Nudge It, Pirates on Screen, Magic Party and Fantasy Lane. Four Island Fruit games were confiscated from Tilt, and seven Pot O Gold games were taken at 777.
An online check placed the value of the confiscated machines at $525 new for table-top models to $3,400 for some free-standing models. The majority of the machines had 19-inch video screens, while a few had 17-inch screens, according to the filings.
Police Lt. Burt Shimabukuro, the Hilo Vice commander, said on Wednesday that the machines are stored in “the department’s evidence warehouse.” Asked if that was on the premises of the Hilo police station, he didn’t provide a direct answer.
According to documents, confidential informants supplied information to police, and undercover officers played machines in at least one arcade.
An informant allegedly told police how the Island Fruit machines at Tilt operated.
“Currency is placed directly into the machine, wagers (bets) range from 25 cents up to one dollar per spin and once the spin starts, it cannot be stopped at all,” an affidavit stated, adding that the “object of the game is to line up three of the same characters either horizontally, vertically or diagonally to win.”
An informant “heard of a cash payout of $1,296 and the most recent cash payout was $1,200” at Tilt, the document stated.
At Da Little Game Shack, the payouts were even larger, according to documents. One informant “heard of someone winning $5,000 in the past.” The informant reportedly told police “that any cash winnings over $1,000 is paid out at the Dollar Store located within the Prince Kuhio Plaza.” Also the informant was said to “witness ‘cash money’ payouts of United States Currency while within Da Little Game Shack establishment …”
Documents said that the informant “fears for his/her life and safety if his/her identity is revealed” and that the individual “related against his/her penal interest” to “playing the illegal gambling machines for a period of over two years.”
At 777, one vice officer played a video poker game and cashed out $55.25 after inserting a $20 bill into the machine “Jack’s (sic) or Better” another officer “cashed out $15 in winnings,” while a third lost $160 on the same machine. “The total amount wagered by all four undercover officers while gambling within the Triple 7 business establishment is $554 …,” a document states.
Police arrested three individuals on suspicion of promoting gambling and possessing gambling records, all Class C felonies carrying a possible prison sentence of five years, plus possessing gambling machines, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. They are 47-year-old Paul Lagat of Keaau at Tilt Amusement Center, 39-year-old Serena Valenzuela of Pahoa at Da Little Game Shack and 50-year-old Lance Yamada of Hilo at 777 Arcade. All three were later released without charges pending further investigation.
Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said Friday it’s possible a forfeiture case could proceed, even if no one is charged.
“We can bring a forfeiture even though a criminal charge is not brought most of the time,” Damerville said, adding a claim against the property could be made by the owners and reviewed by the attorney general for “sufficiency.” If the attorney general finds the claim sufficient, and prosecutors still wish to pursue forfeiture, they would then file a civil case in state Circuit Court.
“It would be like any other civil litigation,” he said.
Asked if a sale of the machines was possible, Damerville replied: “The state doesn’t sell contraband. … Usually when you’re talking about slot machines, you usually don’t have somebody standing in line to get ’em, unless they’re antiques.” He added that antique slots are usually “the old one-armed bandits” that were popular before digital video technology.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.