Illegal Gambling operation in Honolulu, Hawaii leads to authorities arresting two armed robbers who hijacked the gaming operation.

Last Updated: June 9, 2023

Hawaii Illegal Gambling Casino Robbed

Authorities in Honolulu arrested two armed robbers who hijacked an illegal gambling operation. However, no shots were fired during the holdup in the Hawaii capital.

The police said they were able to positively identify the two robbers. And that they had charged them after the arrest. The two men had stolen an unspecified amount of cash and other valuables. The gambling operator that suffered the attack was running the venue illegally.

According to KHON, a local news station, the attack happened on August 8, 2022. The two men remained in custody, although they were awarded bail. One suspect had their bail set at $100,000. And the other had their bail set at $500,000.

The suspects were to be transferred over to the local court for trial. KNON did not disclose what the charges were or reveal the suspects’ names. However, it did say that one suspect is aged 26, while the other one is aged 27. The authorities did not reveal further details of the arrest.

Other Gambling-Related Arrests

That was not the first time that authorities had arrested suspects for crimes related to illegal gambling. On June 3, 2022, police arrested three Hawaiian men for participating in illegal gambling and drug trafficking.

The arrest came after a two-year investigation involving the FBI and local police. The operation involved 50 FBI officers and Maui Police Department officers.

Suspects Arrested and Charged

The three suspects were identified as Touanga Niu, 21, Maafu Pani, 37, and Maliu Tauheluhelu, 37. A fourth suspect, Desmond Morris, 38, was mentioned during the indictment. He was later arrested on June 22, 2022.

Authorities described Tauheluhelu as a resident of Oahu and a leader of an illegal drug and gambling organization. They used the organization to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine (meth) and to run illegal casinos.

Pani of Lahaina was in charge of illegal gambling operations in Maui. He operated illegal casinos in his “Snaxx” shops located in Lahaina and Wailuku.

Niu was charged with participating in an illegal drug operation by helping to transport the drugs and collecting the illegal proceeds. He transported the drugs from Oahu to Maui on flights without TSA screening. He then collected then returned the proceeds from the sale of the drugs back to Oahu.

Morris was charged with two counts of distribution of a controlled substance. He was also charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. It is alleged that he distributed the drugs in Maui.

Pani and Tauheluhelu are currently in the Federal Detention Center on Oahu without bail after they appeared in federal court. However, Niu is out on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

Morris also has a pending case in the 2nd Circuit Court. In the case, he is charged with seven counts of first-degree promotion of dangerous drugs. But he was released on supervision. His attorney argued that he could live with his mother in Lahaina and work at the Salvation Army.

According to the court documents presented by prosecutors, their organization has been operating since around the summer of 2020.

Items Seized in Arrest in Raid

During the search and arrest raid, officers seized $68,000, 20 gambling machines, 15 pounds of drugs suspected to be meth, gambling ledgers, and a money counter. They also seized seven firearms. The illegal gambling activities were happening in several rooms in multiple locations.

The authorities identified the locations as Sports Bar & Grill in Waianae, as well as in 977 and 980 Queens Street in Honolulu. Other sites were snack shops in Lahaina and Wailuku, one in each location.

There were two “ghost guns” among the seven firearms. Owners can buy them online and assemble them at home, making them untraceable.

The rest of the firearms were a Winchester 12-gauge and Remington 20-gauge shotguns and a loaded .25 caliber Beretta handgun. There were also 25 caliber rounds and shotgun rounds.

Cash Seized from Hawaii Illegal Gambling

Legislators Fear Legalizing Gambling Could Drive Up Crime

Hawaii and Utah are the only two states where gambling in any form is illegal. Attempts to introduce bills to legalize gambling in Hawaii have failed numerous times. The state’s legislature rejected the last one in February 2022.

Some Hawaii lawmakers vote down the proposals in the committees. Others do not schedule measures on time to meet important legislative deadlines. The House and Senate cannot consider Bills that have not moved to their final committees by the deadline.

For years, the Hawaii Legislature has considered gambling proposals, but none of the bills has yet been approved. Even the legislators backing the bills admit they did not stand much chance.

House Vice Speaker – John Mizuno

However, they said it is important to keep the debate alive. Among the proponents is House Vice Speaker John Mizuno. He admitted that lawmakers do not want to debate controversial issues in an election year.

Moreover, he does not see any political will to support such bills. The budget surplus also does not make selling gambling as a revenue source plausible. He concluded by saying that a majority of the lawmakers do not view gambling as a progressive solution for Hawaii’s future.

Opponents of gambling are concerned about the possible shortcomings of gambling. For instance, they point out it could increase crime rates and addiction. And for them, that could easily outweigh the revenue benefits the industry could bring.

The recent arrests of individuals involved in both illegal drug and gambling operations reinforce that view. For social organizations, such arrests easily shadow the fact that thousands of Hawaii residents fly to Las Vegas to gamble annually.

Hawaii Family Forum’s CEO – Eva Andrade

Eva Andrade, Hawaii Family Forum’s CEO, as a faith-based organization, says they do not support gambling. And they do not want to see easy gambling access at home. She said that legalizing it would bring it to the front door.

And that would only bring all the ill effects of gambling to more people. Andrade concluded by saying that they do not see that as a positive thing.

Legislators have also failed to support even bills that propose to create a state-run lottery, which can be used to fund public education. That is despite the existing support for such an idea among the registered Hawaii voters.

Rejected Gambling and Bills

In Senate Bill 2310, the proposal was to use the funds to eradicate invasive species. And in Senate Bill 2365, the proposal was to use the state lottery revenues to fund public schools. The funds would be used to cool classrooms and increase teachers’ salaries.

However, none of the bills made it to the Senate floor. Other bills that never got to committee hearings were House Bill 1815 and House Bill 1973.

The one that got a committee hearing was House Bill 2004. It proposed to have a website such as Fanduel or Draft Kings operate in Hawaii. However, Rep. Sean Quinlan rejected it. While rejecting it, he said that he had plans to work on a similar but better proposal.

Illegal Gambling and Crime in Hawaii – Impact on Legalizing Gambling

Overall, the crime in Hawaii is low. Even illegal gambling has yet to reach levels where it worries the authorities about losing revenues. That is what has informed the legislature to reject bills proposing to legalize gambling.

And arrests such as the ones above only serve to discourage ideas of legalizing any form of gambling in Hawaii.

However, that may soon change as online casinos continue to grow nationally. Possibly that will then prompt legislators to consider at least legalizing state lotteries. And as with other states, that may then lead to licensing of online casinos and sportsbooks.

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Dave is a gambling enthusiast who boasts 25+ years of experience. His writings not only unravel the intricacies of online casino games but also explore the psychology behind betting. Dave's commitment to responsible gambling shines through, making every wager a mindful choice for players seeking a thrilling yet balanced gaming experience.