Undercover op: Troopers bust up gambling operation in Kenai, Soldotna


The Alaska State Troopers have been on the trail of an illegal gambling operation going on on the Kenai Peninsula. Now, after an extensive undercover operation, the Troopers have named the alleged perpetrators.

Last December, Troopers in Soldotna were alerted that an illegal gambling operation was occurring in the Kenai area.

Throughout the investigation, investigators determined that The Spot, a Kenai-based business, was operating multiple video gambling machines and that the Arctic Spot, a Soldotna-based business, was also operating several video gambling machines.

Although the games were advertised as games of skill, through undercover surveillance, the games were determined to be games of chance, which are illegal under Alaska law.

On Oct. 5, investigators from the Alaska State Troopers, along with Troopers from patrol and officers from the Kenai Police Department and Soldotna Police Department, executed multiple search warrants on the businesses and the homes of the individuals operating the illegal operations.

During the search warrant service, four money counters, financial reports, gambling games, accessories to the games, an AK-47 rifle with a removed serial number, and approximately $75,000 was seized from various locations.

Investigators arrested the following individuals following the search warrant service: 

  • 40-year-old Soldotna resident Richard Mauia, owner of The Spot. Mauia met with undercover investigators inside The Spot and instructed them on how to play the games.  Mauia was observed at The Spot several times and was identified as being security while the gambling establishment was open. Mauia was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree.
  • 42-year-old Kenai resident Tom Papalagi instructed undercover law enforcement on how to play the game. He was described as being security for the gambling establishments. Papalagi was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree, possession of Gambling Records in the First Degree, and Misconduct Involving a Weapon in the Third Degree.
  • 31-year-old Kenai resident Weiqiang He, who also instructed undercover law enforcement on how to play the game and would pay out people as they played the game. He was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree.
  • 53-year-old Kenai resident Chengshan Liu was observed tending to the business and removing money from the gambling machines.  Liu was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree.

The investigation remains active and ongoing. Additional arrests may be made as the investigation continues. The Alaska State Troopers thanked the Kenai Police Department and Soldotna Police Department for their assistance.


  1. Of course the ‘victims’, I mean customers, who willingly and knowingly participated committed no crimes…..

  2. Victimless crime. But the law must be upheld, after all ahh, no one is above the law right?

  3. Video games are more fun than Draftkings or Rippies why are video games illegal and NFL betting and pull tabs legal?

  4. Filipinos? Filipinos I worked with in my life they had their sources for gambling. Who told on this group? A petty friend and gambling buddy who lost too much money playing the games? Someone who knew them must had told on them. The southern Asians are normally quiet and private about their activities.

  5. The men will be out in a year or less than a year, they are more likely employed in an honest occupation for an honest employer and they are more needed working than twiddling their thumbs behind prison gates.

  6. political class can’t stand by while the little guy’s edge in on their sweet sweet pull tab money.

  7. The government is the only one allowed to screw over people and empty their wallets. How dare these people!

  8. Boo to the troopers! There’s worse out here that needs to be stopped and this place was definitely not one of them. I’ve actually been in there twice and I can tell you, they are far from criminals. I really hope they get out of this mess. So sad.

  9. There’s all these drug rings and people keep going missing, but you waste your time and resources on these people who are really just trying to make a living, not even being close to being a threat in our community. Right on, troopers, thanks for nothing really.

  10. Is there still an Alaska State Lottery know as LottoAlaska? Can I purchase pull tabs? May I purchase chances on the ADFG website for big game permit hunts? Can I go to the ADFG website and receive instruction on how to buy chances on the “Big Game Super 7 Big Game Raffle”? Quote: “Proceeds from the 2022/23 Super 7 Big Game Raffle will benefit Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife conservation”
    I’m a bit confused! What do all these activities have in common? State government receives the profit from people gambling. See how this works?

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