No Blackjack in Montana

We won’t be adding Montana to the list of states that legalized blackjack, at least not in the near future. Legislation that would have legalized the popular casino game had gained momentum, but was killed in a committee on Thursday.

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee voted to table the bill, which means to indefinitely postpone debate on it. The vote to table the bill came after a brief hearing in which opposition to the bill, which included nonprofit charities and bar owners, spoke of their worries that blackjack would lead to increased crime, gambling addiction and other social problems.

The bill, House Bill 423, passed the state House of Representatives with little debate, but opposition slowly grew and became enough of a factor to lead to a tabling of the bill in the Senate. Montana has small casinos that offer slots, but no table games. Senator Douglas Palagi said that the casinos “don’t have the resources to operate a blackjack table.”

Senator Tony Belcourt, who sponsored the bill, said that allowing blackjack in the state would avoid losing money outside the state as residents fly to Las Vegas to play casino games. He also pointed out that a portion of the tax revenue from legalizing blackjack would be earmarked for social services, those same services opponents are worried about being affected by allowing the game. There is still a chance that the bill could be reintroduced for debate in the Senate during this term, but in all likelihood it is dead until at least the next session.

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