Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, R-38C, has introduced legislation to allow the dice game of bunco to be included with already legalized home games such as mahjong where one is allowed to wager with certain restrictions.
House Bill 581 was heard before the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday afternoon.
“It simply does not make sense to have a situation where limited wagering is allowed for mahjong or a card game, yet at the same 55 and over location, limited wagering is not permitted for bunco,” Carozza said in her testimony before the Ways and Means Committee.
“It seems only fair that bunco be included in the category of home games where limited wagering is allowed.”
According to a release, the issue was brought to Carozza's attention by Ocean Pines resident Chris Francone, who traveled to Annapolis to testify in favor of the legislation.
As the law currently is, an individual 21 years or older is allowed to conduct a home game involving wagering in a 55-year-old and older residential community and if the game is limited to mahjong or a card game or with other restrictions.
Under the current law, poker and mahjong players may conduct limited wagering, but bunco players are not allowed to do so, the release said.
From left, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, Chris Francone and Mary DeCarlo are pictured outside the Ways and Means Committee chamber at the General Assembly in Annapolis. (Photo: submitted image)
Carozza said in a later interview that she called the Maryland Lottery Agency to see if it was a matter of interpretation. She said she was told it was not, and she would need to create a bill in order for bunco to be allowed.
"We were all in a state of disbelief to learn that it is unlawful for bunco to be played for money because it is played with dice," Francone said in her testimony. "It is a great group of women who enjoy not only the game but the friendships."
According to the release, House Bill 581 received a letter of support from the interim Worcester County State's Attorney Bill McDermott, who supports the bill "in the interests of parity and justice."
Sen. Addie Eckardt cross-filed the same bill, Senate Bill 404, and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held a hearing on it Wednesday, as well.
"I am optimistic it will pass," Carozza said. "We had two positive hearings yesterday, Chris Francone did an outstanding job testifying and I will be following up with the members of the House Ways and Means Committee to build support."