Illegal in the 808

I’m always fascinated by illegal gambling busts, and today’s news does not disappoint. Three illegal casinos in Hawaii have been discovered and closed.

From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Three clandestine, 24-hour-a-day gambling houses where players allegedly wagered tens of thousands of dollars a day behind fake storefronts were simultaneously raided by Honolulu police Tuesday night in an operation that officials called the biggest gambling bust in at least five years.

Police said the game rooms are connected to other gambling operations run by organized-crime figures.

“The casinos that we hit are hurting for the money we took,” said Maj. Kevin Lima, head of HPD’s patrol District 1. “That’s the price of doing business as far as we’re concerned. Sometimes we get lucky; sometimes they get lucky.”

Police arrested 13 people and seized $97,932 during the 7 p.m. raids, executed by HPD Crime Reduction Unit officers from three districts along with officers from HPD’s Narcotics/Vice division. They also seized $5,660 worth of electronic gaming machines and surveillance equipment.

“As long as people are willing to go play, people will be willing to set up game rooms,” said Lima.

Police say they have raided 10 to 15 gambling houses so far this year. Investigators believe there are at least 10 major gambling houses still operating in Honolulu. HPD’s gambling detail has fewer than 10 officers working cases across the island. In 2003, the detail made 58 arrests, executed 40 search warrants, and seized $22,000 in cash.

Tuesday’s raids once again cast light on the city’s illegal gaming subculture. Illegal gambling in Hawai’i is a familiar pastime, deeply rooted in the culture of the Islands.

During the plantation days, the workers, the majority of whom were male bachelors, gambled heavily in the dormitories on pay day. Many rode the train into Chinatown where illegal gambling dens actively catered to them.

Bust closes three casinos – The Honolulu Advertiser

Someday, I’m going to get a grant to spend a few months in Hawaii to research the gambling cultures there myself.

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