BUSINESS

Hawaii bringing the gavel down on sports betting and internet sweepstakes

TAGs: betislandsports.com, Hawaii, malibusports.com, sports betting, terrence ching, World Wide Wagering

hawaii-sports-betting-guilty-pleasHonolulu car salesman Terrence Ching pled guilty in US District Court on Thursday to transmitting wagering information and filing a false tax return. Ching reportedly acted as a middleman between 30-40 local bettors and two Costa Rica-based online sportsbooks: Malibusports.com and Betislandsports.com (the latter not to be confused with recently failed sportsbook Betislands.ag).

Ching, who was arrested last May, admitted his failure to report income of $92k he made in 2011 via his bookie activities. The Star-Advertiser reported that Ching is facing a maximum two-year prison stint on the wagering charge and three years for the tax violation when his sentence is handed down in June. Ching may also forfeit $330k in cash police seized from his home and an additional $60k from his bank account, plus various pricey bits of gold and platinum bling. As part of his plea deal, Ching has agreed to cooperate with the feds in their investigation of illegal wagering activity.

The authorities are apparently now going after Ching’s clients. HawaiiNewsNow.com reported that about two-dozen locals have been charged or will be charged as a result of the ongoing probe. Attorney Megan Kau, who represents some of the accused, said her clients believed their activity was legal. “This is something that people in Hawaii have been doing … for a very long time … forever. It includes business people, doctors, law enforcement, sales people, all kinds of people.” Retired FBI agent Hilton Lui concurred: “People in Hawaii like to bet.” Guess it’s true… People are the same all over.

Ching’s court appearance followed a similar guilty plea in an unrelated case. A week ago, Matthew Phillips, one of seven individuals charged in November for running a gambling operation out of a bottled water company in Kailua-Kona in Hawaii County, pled guilty in US District Court to operating an illegal gambling business. Phillips admitted to being “part of an organization that would take sports bets, usually over the phone.” The group also reportedly utilized the services of Costa Rica-based online site World Wide Wagering and provided live craps and poker games to its customers. Phillips, who agreed to forfeit over $61k, faces a max five-year prison stint at his sentencing in June. Three of the other six defendants – Kendale Limahal, Robert Bland and the organization’s reputed ringleader Eric Ford – are scheduled to plead guilty over the next few weeks.

Sports betting isn’t the only gambling activity getting the smackdown in Hawaii. On the same day Ching was pleading guilty, Honolulu police raided “at least” six gaming arcades, seized 22 alleged gambling machines and arrested six individuals, who face a total of 72 felony and misdemeanor gambling charges. The arcades appear to have been offering prizes similar to the internet sweepstakes cafes that have caused so much consternation on the US mainland over the past couple years. The local ABC News affiliate reported that the company that distributed the machines has filed a lawsuit for deprivation of property rights and a federal judge is expected to hand down a decision by the end of the month.

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