Montana Department of Justice
Home / Gambling Control Division – GCD / History of Gambling in Montana

1889

Montana’s new constitution makes all forms of gambling illegal. However, illegal gambling halls exist throughout the state. Nationally, scandals in lottery sales result in an anti-gambling crusade.

1910

Gambling is deemed illegal in every Western state.

1933

Prohibition is repealed. Bars reopen and gambling resurfaces. Pull-tabs become popular.

1937

The legislature passes the Hickey Act, which legalizes various table games in various locations if licensed by a county.

1945

The legislature authorizes the State Board of Equalization to license certain “trade stimulators” and “other devices” for nonprofit organizations and collect a tax on them. Illegal slot machines are located throughout the state as “trade stimulators.”

1949

The legislature declares a “law enforcement emergency” and allocates $40,000 to enforce gambling laws; then-Attorney General Arnold Olson complies.

1950

The Montana Supreme Court rules that slot machines and punch boards are illegal under the state constitution. Voters defeat, by a 4-1 margin, an initiative to legalize gambling.

1972

Voters approve a Constitutional Convention referendum giving the Legislature and the people authority to approve or disapprove gambling.

1973

The legislature passes the Card Game, Bingo, Raffles and Sports Pool Act.

1976

The Montana Supreme Court legalizes video keno as a form of live bingo.

1983

Voters defeat Initiative 92, which would establish a Gaming Commission and a limited list of games allowed by counties.

1984

The Montana Supreme Court rules that video poker machines (Draw 80) are illegal slot machines. (Gallatin County v. D&R Music & Vending, Inc.)

1985

The legislature passes the Video Poker Machine Act, which allows five poker machines per liquor license and unlimited keno machines. The law establishes license fees for machines, rather than a tax. In 1986, the state issues 2,887 video poker licenses.

1986

Voters approve the Montana Lottery.

1987

The legislature passes a 15 percent tax on video gambling machine income, effective in 1988. The tax is collected by the Department of Commerce.

1988

The state collects a tax on the gross income from video gambling machines, with one-third of the collections going to the state general fund and the remaining two-thirds to local governments.

1989

The legislature passes Senate Bill 431, which centralizes gambling regulation at the state level and consolidates all gambling statutes. The Department of Justice is assigned regulatory, enforcement and taxation duties.

1991

The legislature lifts the limit on the number of video poker machines and authorizes a total of 20 video gambling machines per liquor license. The Senate Judiciary Committee rejects a blackjack bill.

1993

The Senate Judiciary Committee rejects increasing the payout on poker machines from $100 to $800. No new forms of gambling are proposed or approved by the legislature. Nationally, gambling is on the increase as a result of state and federal law changes.

In Haman v. State, the Montana Supreme Court rules that gambling activity must be “…specifically and clearly authorized…and the statutes must be strictly construed…,” meaning that only those activities specifically listed in statute are legal in Montana.

1994

The state negotiates gambling compacts with four Indian tribal governments: Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Fort Peck and Rocky Boy. Three tribes fail to complete negotiations, meaning gambling activities on their reservations must be suspended. (Governor Racicot declares Crow compact no longer valid because of violations.)

1995

The Montana Senate passes but the House kills Senate Bill 187, which would have studied and put in place a “dial-up” computerized accounting and reporting system. The legislature passes House Bill 527, increasing the payout on video poker machines to $800 maximum. Attempts by some legislators to raise the gambling gross receipts tax fail in committee.

1997

The legislature rejects another request for an automated accounting and reporting system. The Gaming Advisory Council submits a bill for a compulsive gambling treatment program, which does not pass.

The state signs an interim compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, allowing gambling to resume on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

1999

The legislature approves House Bill 109 to create an automated accounting and reporting system and provides $2.46 million to develop the new system. The Gambling Control Division (GCD) is directed to solicit proposals for the new system.

2000

After two unsuccessful rounds of requests for proposals to develop the new accounting and reporting system, GCD signs a contract with Lodging and Gaming Systems (LGS) of Reno, Nevada.

2001

The state sues LGS for failing to deliver the automated accounting and reporting system.

The state and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes enter into a five-year gaming compact.

2002

GCD and the Department of Revenue initiate a combined application for gambling and liquor licenses.

2003

The legislature defeats a proposal to allow the creation of “Destination Montana” – an entertainment district with Las Vegas-style casinos in Butte.

2005

The 2005 Legislature approves legislation that clearly prohibits Internet gambling and defeats a proposal that would have provided for legislative involvement in approving tribal gaming compacts.

2007

GCD implements a new database and tax reporting system that allows video gambling machine owners to obtain permits and pay taxes over the Internet. The new database also allows paperless processing of liquor and gambling license applications. Once the various application materials are scanned, the rest of the process is done electronically, improving efficiency.

2009

Through Senate Bill 86, the legislature changes raffle prize restrictions. County raffle permits are no longer required and raffle regulation is now under the Department of Justice. Variations in bingo cards are allowed.

2011

The 2011 legislature approves legislation that authorizes video line games, creates a stale date for VGM win tickets, and increases the maximum prize payout for bingo to $800.  In addition, a rule was adopted to increase the bill acceptor maximum in VGMs to allow for $50s and $100s.

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Attorney General's Office & Legal Services Division

The Attorney General’s Office, headed by Attorney General Tim Fox, and the Legal Services Division function as the lawyers for the State of Montana. The attorneys in the Office have expertise in a wide range of legal topics and handle a broad range of legal cases involving the State of Montana and its people.

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Children’s Justice Bureau

The Children’s Justice Bureau is an agency-wide initiative at the Montana Department of Justice dedicated to IMPROVING how we respond to child victims, DEVELOPING state-of-the-art approaches by keeping up with the newest research and, most importantly, HELPING child victims recover and move on with their lives.

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Forensic Science Division & State Crime Lab

The mission of the Montana Forensic Science Division is to use operationally efficient and financially responsible practices as the laboratory provides accurate, objective, and timely forensic analyses to the criminal justice community in order to maximize value to the citizens of Montana.

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Missing Persons Clearinghouse

The Missing Children Act of 1985 established a Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse within the Department of Justice. In March 2008, the department implemented a searchable online database that, for the first time, is updated in real time and includes any photos provided by law enforcement.

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Office of Victim Services

The goal of the Office of Victim Services is to provide tools and information to help crime victims recover from their experience and provide them with a range of services available. The criminal justice system can be confusing and intimidating for victims. To assist them as they go through the justice system, the Office of Victim Service is available to answer any questions they may have.

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Central Services Division

The Montana Department of Justice’s Central Services Division provides financial and human resources support for the department. We make sure that everything works for the people Working for Justice. If you’re interested in a rewarding career helping protect the rights and safety of all Montanans, we invite you to join our team of over 800 dedicated employees working across the state.

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Justice Information Technology Services Division

Our Justice Information Technology Services Division (JITSD) provides vital Information Technology (IT) infrastructure upon which Montanans and lojitsdcal and state law enforcement agencies rely for timely, accurate information. JITSD manages the IT systems, services, and interfaces to support nearly 800 DOJ employees, 325 statewide county motor vehicle system users, and over 3,000 Criminal Justice Information Network (CJIN) users across the state.

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Division of Criminal Investigation

The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Montana Department of Justice is involved in many aspects of Montana law enforcement and is integral to the Department dciof Justice’s mission of promoting public safety.

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Montana Highway Patrol

Montana is rich in natural beauty and history. From Glacier Park in the west to Makoshika Park in the east, the men and women of the Montana Highway Patrol are working hard to make your travels safe and enjoyable. The Highway Patrol’s core values are “Service, Integrity and Respect.” These values are reflected in our commitment to public safety through diligent and fair enforcement of our traffic codes.

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Montana Law Enforcement Academy

The Montana Law Enforcement Academy is the premier law enforcement and public safety educational and training institution for state, county, city and tribal officers throughout the state. The Academy offers entry-level programs referred to as Basic Programs and advanced training through an array of Professional Development Programs.

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Public Safety Officer Standards & Training

The Council was formed in 2007 under 2-15-2029, MCA as an independent Quasi-judicial board. And as allowed by statute the Council adopted Administrative Rules in order to implement the provisions of Title 44, chapter 4, part 4, MCA. Per 44-4-403, MCA the Council is required to set employment and training standards for all Public Safety Officers as defined in 44-4-401, MCA and in addition the Council shall provide for the certification or recertification of public safety officers and for the suspension or revocation of certification of public safety officers.

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Motor Vehicle Division

The mission of the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is to identify and promote efficient, cost-effective programs that benefit the interests, safety, and well-being of Montana citizens through licensing, registering, and regulating the motoring activities of the public. The MVD continuously strives for excellence in customer service. Streamlining the way we do business has allowed us to improve our efficiency and make our services more convenient for our customers.

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Natural Resource Damage Program

The Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) was created in 1990 to prepare the state’s lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). Decades of mining and mineral processing operations in and around Butte and Anaconda released substantial quantities of hazardous substances into the Upper Clark Fork River Basin between Butte and Milltown. These hazardous substances extensively degraded the area’s natural resources.

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Office of Consumer Protection

Enforce consumer laws designed to protect the consumer from unfair or deceptive business practices. Enforce statutes relating to telephone solicitation and telemarketing. Provide information to consumers about the Consumer Protection Act. Assist consumers by distributing consumer education materials including scam and consumer alerts. Investigate false, misleading, or deceptive trade practices.

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Gambling Control Division

Through the Gambling Control Division, the Department of Justice regulates all forms of gambling in Montana, except for the Montana Lottery and horse racing. The legislature has charged the division with maintaining a uniform regulatory climate that is fair and free of corrupt influences. The division is also responsible for collecting gambling revenue for state and local governments.

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Human Trafficking

The Montana Department of Justice has a continued commitment to victims of human trafficking. In partnership with federal authorities, our agency plays a key role in the investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of crimes related to human trafficking in Montana. This form of modern day slavery does happen here in Big Sky Country.

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Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Program

Montana’s deadliest drugs aren’t made in secret labs and they don’t always come from dealers on the corner. They’re in our own medicine cabinets. Each year, prescription drug abuse contributes to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans — making prescription drug abuse 15 times more deadly than meth, heroin and cocaine combined. Our kids report the third-highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country and more than half of them say prescription drugs are easier to get than street drugs.

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Safe in Your Space

When it comes to embracing new technology, kids have rapidly outpaced their parents and teachers. By their early school years, many children are already more comfortable on the Internet than their parents. But just because children are smart enough to know how to navigate the Internet, doesn’t mean they have the experience to make good decisions about some of the possibilities they may face online.

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Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry

Created by the Montana Department of Justice in 1989, the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry is a valuable resource for Montanans to protect their families against sexual or violent offenders.

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Montana 24/7 Sobriety Program

Drinking and driving has been a chronic – and deadly — problem on Montana’s roadways for decades. In 2008, Montana was ranked as the deadliest state in the nation when it came to per capita DUI-related traffic fatalities.

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Work for Justice

Everyday at The Montana Department of Justice, our employees are dedicated to ensuring the well-being and rights of the people of our great state. We’re passionate about what we do because it’s more than a job or a career. It’s about who we are as people. If this sounds like you, your unique experiences, knowledge, and values may be just what the Montana Department of Justice is looking for and needs. In return we can offer a culture that promotes fairness and growth opportunities.

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