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Bill would allow street dice in MT bars and some restaurants

HELENA – Gamblers and gamers could be allowed to play the dice game cee-lo in bars or restaurants that sell alcohol under a new bill that’s moving through the Legislature.

Rep. Ryan Lynch (D-Butte) introduced House Bill 368 in the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee Friday.

Angela Nunn, administrator of the Gambling Control Division at the Montana Department of Justice, opposes the bill.

She said it doesn’t offer tight enough restrictions on a game with varied rules and her department couldn’t help police cheating.

“I’ve heard of people losing $1,000 on one roll of the dice playing the game. If someone were to complain to us of cheating or collusion, there’s an expectation that we would be there to assist them,” Nunn said. “The way this is drafted without regulatory controls, there would not be much we could do for them.”

The bill lets players of cee-lo agree on the rules beforehand, which Nunn said is too broad. The game, also referred to as “4-5-6” or “pair and a point,” is generally played with three six-sided dice. The first player to roll a predetermined combination of numbers wins.

But Lynch said the game, which can already be played privately, is friendly with generally low stakes. He also said regulation and oversight from an already burdened Department of Justice is unnecessary

“We hear about how the agency is overworked and underfunded, and yet we’re trying to increase our supervision and increase our bureaucratic overreach,” Lynch said. “At the end of the day, if someone wants to go to somebody’s house or if somebody wants to go— God forbid— in a church basement and shake dice, they can now.”

The bill passed out of the House in February with a vote of 84-13.

-Tim Pierce reporting for the UM Legislative News Service, University of Montana School of Journalism

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.

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