HONOLULU — The Honolulu City Council is considering making it illegal to own a gambling machine, tightening rules that have led to arrests but no prosecutions.
Hawaii is one of two states in the country with no forms of legalized gambling, including casinos or lotteries. But recent raids of gambling parlors on Oahu have not resulted in any prosecutions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Councilman Joey Manahan said he wants to give law enforcement more tools to crack down on gambling. More establishments with sweepstakes machines have been popping up and neighbors have complained, he said.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor to manage, maintain, produce, possess or use the machines. It would be punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The council is expected to consider the measure this week.
Companies that own the machines say they’re not gambling devices because people can enter sweepstakes and win prizes without buying anything.
Some machines require payment, with winnings distributed as vouchers that can be cashed in at a service window.
PJY Enterprises LLC, which distributes and maintains the machines and operates some parlors, is in federal court with prosecutors over the machines. PJY sued for the return of the machines and to stop further raids, saying they amount to illegal search and seizure.
Keith Kiuchi, an attorney for PJY, said the Honolulu bill is too vague.
“It will probably not pass a constitutionality review,” he said.
A spokesman in the city prosecutor’s office declined comment, while a spokeswoman in the Honolulu Police Department said the department is monitoring the bill.