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All the casinos to be shut down - is Michael McDowell bluffing, or does he have the Nuts?

category national | miscellaneous | feature author Monday March 13, 2006 10:22author by Gambler Anonymous - 808 The Bass Queen (four of a kind)author address Heads-up at the last table in the WSOP.author phone six six six, six six six (six of a kind) Report this post to the editors

The end of casinos and card rooms in Ireland?

featured image
Blurry eyed from the adrenalin...

About four years ago I got a job working for security in a large Vegas-style casino in Auckland, New Zealand. On my first morning I was introduced to the manager and other people I would be working with, handed a swipe pass, and given a list of my daily duties. The casino and adjoining conference centre and hotel were open 24 hours, all year round, and employed roughly 2,000 people in total. The majority of these were food/drink and cleaning staff on three rotating eight hour shifts. I had started on a Monday morning at 8am, and after being shown the ropes in the control room, my team leader asked me if I'd like to go on a tour of the gaming floor. Why not, I replied.

So off we went down to the enormous gaming floor. Bear in mind this was before 9am on a Monday, so I expected the place to be near empty, maybe a few cleaners hoovering the deep green carpets or polishing the roulette wheels in anticipation of a few people drifting in later on in the afternoon. Not a bit of it. Tables were full, cards being dealt, lights flashing and buzzers sounding, chips being stacked and counted. The "one armed bandit" areas were the worst. Red-eyed, gaunt, pasty, slouching, with their change bucket in one hand and the other eternally poised over the button, these people looked like they'd been there all night, all week, all their lives.

This was in huge contrast to the other "casinos" I'd previously been in - namely the Merrion, and the Jackpot (now closed, as far as I know) on Montague Street. These were card rooms, with no more than 60 people playing in a knockout Texas Hold'em tournament. There was no alcohol, they certainly werent open 24 hours, and the atmosphere was intimate and reasonably relaxed. They were operating in a legal grey area, and even though I'd been playing poker for a good while with friends in private house games, very few people seemed aware of their existence. In the last four years though, there's been a huge upsurge in people playing poker, and the casinos have multiplied in Dublin, and beyond.

As I understand it, the ubiquitous Minister for Justice and regular reader of Indymedia, Michael McDowell, is planning to shut down all the card rooms and casinos in Ireland. I have ambivalent feelings about this proposal. Personally I think it will be impossible for him to close them down fully anyway, now the genie has been let out of the bottle they'll probably be driven underground. But I'll come to that later.

I'd generally be of the opinion that you should be allowed to make choices in life to do what you want, as long as you dont interfere with other people's freedom to make those choices too. You should be responsible and intelligent enough to look after your own decisions and the consequences. Therefore I'd always thought that people should be allowed gamble with their money if they want. Its their decision, they know what happens if they lose it, and their actions are not interfering with others.

Working for the Security department obviously warped this viewpoint somewhat. Initially collating the reports on the seedy underbelly of the casino were fascinating, and if I'd worked there longer my accumulated tales could easily be turned into a pulpy true crime bestseller. Drugs, prostitution, fights, gangs; tasty ingredients in a very nasty pie.

But after a short while the "glamour" of it wore off and scanning the details of the weekend incidents made for extremely depressing reading. A person banned for two years for throwing a drink in a dealer's face when he was repeatedly dealt bad cards. A couple thrown out for having sex behind the gaming machines. Another couple arrested for leaving their two young kids locked in the car down in the carpark while they went gambling (a regular occurance, I was informed). A pleading letter from the family of a compulsive gambler begging the casino to bar him, after he'd sold both cars and the empty grandparents house to feed his blackjack habit - the casino couldn't do anything for them because he hadnt broken any of the casino regulations. And so on.

I guess here is the crux of the matter. How much of individual liberty and choice is dictated by external forces? When people are claiming they're making a choice solely on their own, where does advertising, peer pressure and even your own history or personality come into it? How many bad choices do people make, before they fully realise they're destroying themselves or their families? The casino did print and distribute leaflets about problem gambling, but the amount of money and display space devoted to this in comparison to advertising and promotion of gaming was insignificant. Likewise with the bookies in this country. Paddy Power pull regular stunts or run controversial campaigns to draw the punters in, but I dont think I've ever seen the words "problem gambling" or "seeking help" appear in one of their full page press ads.

I can understand how it would be easy to succumb to the buzz of the turn of a card. One night in the Jackpot, on the last two tables in a 60 person tournament, the flop came down J J K, then Q, then A - with a pair of jacks in my hand, making four of a kind - the best possible hand, or "the Nuts". Around me there was a full house, two straights and a couple of two pairs, most of whom stayed until the river (the end of the betting). The phrase "my heart was in my mouth" was never more fitting at that time, as the adrenalin rush surged into every nerve of my body. I more than quadrupled my chips in a single go and went on to win 500 quid after putting in 40. I walked back into town an hour or so later with this intense mix of elation and exhaustion, with my brain racing at a million miles an hour.

But gambling is like any buzz. Like drink or drugs, its ok if its done in moderation. When it becomes an obsession and the one single (or primary) driving factor of your life, you're in trouble. So where's the middle ground between the right to throw your money the way of the dealer, and someone else (in this case the state) stepping in and completely stopping you in case a situation arises where you're acting completely irresponsibly to the detriment of yourself and others? I hate using the term "nanny state" because it makes me thinks of the tobacco lobby arseholes who claimed their "civil liberties" to smoke chemicals in my face was being infringed. But in the case of the casinos, I think that shutting them down is not the answer, and McDowell should step back a bit from this threat.

Casinos and gambling are illegal in Ireland but somehow managed to operate under a loophole related to private members clubs. This never made much sense to me; how something illegal was seemingly alright if you made everyone who came in a member. Maybe some entrepeneur will open a luxurious crack house in Dublin 2 and get away with it because he (or she!) gives everyone who comes in a laminated card with their name on it.

Joking aside, there is space for the cardrooms to exist. The members club loophole will have to be closed in relation to casinos. Legislation could be drafted in that outlaws completely random games, like the roulette wheel and the slot machine, but facilitates games of some knowledge and skill like Hold'em or Omaha. Cash games should go, but tournaments with limited re-buys should stay. This means that when you are knocked out, you have to call it a night, rather than staying there frustrated and continously re-buying chips straight off the dealer. There should be no alcohol served, and anyone who is intoxicated should not be allowed in (drunks are a pain in the arse to play with anyway). The clubs should have a specified closing time and a "drinking up" time 90 minutes beforehand, where there are no new tournaments started and no re-buys. Measures like these could be discussed in a research or working group, which could include groups like Gamblers Anonymous as well as the casino owners and punters. This way a common ground could be found between the current situation and the proposed elimination of all casinos.

As I've mentioned earlier, I think that if the clubs are completely shut down, they will only move underground. An enormous amount of hotels, colleges, pubs, clubs and halls now run regular poker nights. Its gone far beyond a small, niche activity that can be completely suppressed. Even McDowell's pal Dermot Desmond sank millions into his Sporting Emporium off Grafton Street. It seems highly unlikely he will give it up without some resistance. If the clubs do move out of the spotlight and into the black economy, who's to say where the money might go? It could end up in the hands of McDowell's republican enemies, or worse yet, used to fund groups of the open-toed sandal-wearing and muesli-eating variety who have it in for him!

author by pokerpublication date Mon Mar 13, 2006 15:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...when there's so much other forms of gambling out there that are fully legal, and just as potentially addictive as cards? Scratch cards, lotto, euromillions, horse racing, greyhounds, football pools, etc etc..

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Mon Mar 13, 2006 16:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Investing' in the stock exchange is gambling.

Voting for a government is gambling, I may add that the people have lost this wager each and every time it's been tried.

The budget is gambling.

Marriage is gambling.

Setting up a business is gambling, as is running one.

Gambling cannot easily be defined, it exists whether it is legislated for or not. Damage limitation should be the concern of McDowell. But being an idiot, it will be hard for him to see the whole spectrum of the issue - that comes from only being able to see in monochrome, like the other craven curs he associates with.

I'd recommend leaving in the games of chance like roulette and the others. I'd limit gaming licenses to charitable organisations like: The Samaritans, Rape Crisis Centre, Gamblers Anonymous, etc. And I'd agree with the suggestions that Gambler Anonymous made too.

A fine article.

author by Leon - Unofficial Postpublication date Mon Mar 13, 2006 18:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

These clubs are illegal. They do not operate as private members clubs within the meaning of the law.
The clubs operated on a for profit basis; theowners are millionaires.
The clubs are not run for the mutual benefit of the club itself or the members.
Members don't control the clubs and therefore they are illegal.

As to why the cops didn't close them down; well 7 years ago there were cops in and out of there all the time.

JJ JJK Q A could have been a straight flush there?

author by corneiliuspublication date Mon Mar 13, 2006 20:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I can understand how it would be easy to succumb to the buzz of the turn of a card. One night in the Jackpot, on the last two tables in a 60 person tournament, the flop came down J J K, then Q, then A - with a pair of jacks in my hand, making four of a kind - the best possible hand, or "the Nuts". Around me there was a full house, two straights and a couple of two pairs, most of whom stayed until the river (the end of the betting). The phrase "my heart was in my mouth" was never more fitting at that time, as the adrenalin rush surged into every nerve of my body. I more than quadrupled my chips in a single go and went on to win 500 quid after putting in 40. I walked back into town an hour or so later with this intense mix of elation and exhaustion, with my brain racing at a million miles an hour.

But gambling is like any buzz. Like drink or drugs, its ok if its done in moderation."

As the author wrote, this is understandable. Yet only from a certain point of view. A point of view uniquely 'civilised' ......

As I look at it, it is in many ways a pavlovian reward/pain cycle. A conditioned response.

There are other ways of experiencing the various 'highs' that the human body is capable of producing, ways that many, many people are unaware of, simply because the information has been obscured ... by those whose agenda was/is to control other people by conditioning. By depriving each person of the ability to master their own bodies, thus creating victims of circumstance. Cancer. Depression. Obesity. Self-hatred.

If we can only get our highs from external sources/stimulation, and are alienated from our true self, from the workings of our bodies, we will be 'addicted' to those externals. Indefinately. Despeartely seeking life, when it is right there, within each and everyone of us, all the time.

It doesn't have to be that way. We are innately capable of intentionally triggering any and all highs. From the most outrageous psychedelics to the most sublime opiates.Therein lies freedom from externalised addictions, freedom from externalised leadership, freedom from pre-scribed thoughts, freedom to be real, to be original. Know your body. Be your body. Be your intention. Learn to breath consciously.

Given that our 'leaders' are all people who are ignorant of their innate abilities, that they are desperately seeking what is within, what is hidden from themselves, it's hardly surprising that they behave the way they do. Most of us behave the same way, we just do not see it! Untill we see that, and change it, all hope for the future is merely hope ,,,,,, so get out of the car and walk! You do NOT need the car. You however do however need your planet, it's ancient perfected systems and your body is one of those systems .....

Related Link: http://www.corneilius.net
author by Johnny Cpublication date Tue Mar 14, 2006 09:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's interesting to see how the practice of gambling has entered 'mainstream' entertainment so quickly. Bookies used to be smoky male dominated dives - but now the whole thing has been glammed up and is being sold to a new generation of potential punters. On Grafton Street this morning I was handed a 'Cheltenham Survival Kit' - a marketing pack from well established Irish bookmaking firm. Freebies included the following

- A pack of playing cards
- Baseball hat
- A voucher for a free €3 bet in the sponsoring bookie.

The 'free bet' is very clever marketing to someone who would never dream of entering a bookmakers. It's almost as if someone decided that society hasn't enough addiction problems to handle already.

author by Ace Highpublication date Tue Mar 14, 2006 21:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is my firm belief that McDowell's aspirations of shutting down the cassino and card industry in this country is grossly unfair to the ever growing numbers of poker players. McDowell has too many times gone a step or two too far in controlling what the citizens of this country can or cannot do. Of course the increasing numbers of peole player cards for money is likely to lead to gambling addictions for some, this shouldn't mean we restrict the other 99.9% of those who do not have such an addiction. It seems to me that anything in which the masses find enjoyment inevitably contains a certain addictive character for example horse & greyhound racing, the lotto, people bet on results of football, hurling, boxing etc. the list is endless. So then... let's criminalise sport while we're at it Michael?? The hypocrisy here is quite obvious. If my grandmother at 92 years of age wishes to play Bingo two or three nights a week, well then that's ok. But if I wish to play poker once a month i'm breaking the law. Further hypocrisy can be seen Charlie McCreevy decreasing betting taxes for horse racing. This was an obvious incentive for the average punter to save a few quid when gambling (as well as an election stunt for the Kildare constituency). The difference being that horse racing has a long established tradition here often associated with the upper classes so we cannot turn around and criminalise an industry in which we are one of the leading competitors internationally. The State should not be trying to shut down the cassino industry but instead should try to curtail the involvment of criminal gangs in such businesses.

author by Leonpublication date Tue Mar 14, 2006 22:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The owners of these clubs are criminals. The clubs are organised lucrative criminal enterprises.

They are breaking the law therefore they are criminals.

author by barrypublication date Thu Mar 16, 2006 16:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

being a fine upstanding (and ladder climbing) member of the pds, i'm sure that minister n'aer do-wells purpose is not to limit individuals freedom but rather to utilize market forces in his campaign for a garda reserve.

since it is a well established fact that the criminalisation of a particular type of behaviour does not in any way lessen societal participation in that behaviour, it can be extrapolated that by increasing the number of criminal offences, one will ipso facto increase the supply of criminals, thereby increasing the demand for gardai, which according to the minister can best be achieved by the establishment of said reserve.

this course of action has two very desirable results:

victory for the vainglourious minister over the garda 'unions'
an increased population for his new superprison, and super profits for all concerned...

author by Brian Borupublication date Fri Mar 17, 2006 13:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Banning it will just drive it underground or online and is unrealistic. The US has been trying to ban online gambling for years (not Las Vegas casinos though) but the international nature of the internet makes this unrealistic. Mnay sites are located in offshore islands or microstates like Alderney, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar etc. As such, if the Irish govt were to try closing them down it would be futile as they are hosted in those countries. The WTO ruled in a case by Costa Rica against the US that the latter could not block online casinos. Attempts have been made in the US to intimidate card-companies to stop them allowing themselves being used to play, but then the e-wallets can get around that even if they are a bit less convenient in that it can take a while for the money to arrive in the account ready for playing.

It's our money and we are entitled to spend it as we please as long as we are not harming others. Online gambling might actually perform a partial solution to underage/excessive gambling as betting limits and age-verification could be built into the software. To my knowledge McDowell's comments centre around casino clubs. I hope he leaves online gambling alone. He seems concerned about money laundering e.g. cash being traded for chips and then cashed in. Obviously that cannot happen with cards, so he should leave online casinos alone. They are just a bit of fun in moderation!

author by Brian Borupublication date Fri Mar 17, 2006 13:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It should also be noted that our gambling laws are already draconian and everyone knows they are not enforced because it is unrealistic and laughably outdated e.g. National Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 with its ludicrous betting limits in theory are the law on this issue. I think it bans you from winning as much as you bet, and makes 2p (in old money) the maximum bet. It was a product of its times - i.e. Church domination - and we need to move on from it. The UK is planning a supercasino and to regulate online gambling. Regulation, not prohibition, is the way to go. As the 20's show, prohibition doesn't work.

author by corneiliuspublication date Sat Mar 18, 2006 02:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If all gambling was nationalised and profits above operating costs donated to sensible charities or added to social welfare budgets to resulting in a redistribution of wealth to those deprived of equal access to resources in our communities I'd be happy to see gambling allowed. At least then the stupidity off the few could be of genuine benefit to the many.

Related Link: http://www.corneilius.net
author by John - Amacpublication date Sat Mar 25, 2006 08:39author email oo at iol dot comauthor address iitsfvcv sauthor phone 336637838Report this post to the editors

I Was an Owner Of a Casino Club In Ireland and I have been In this business For 15 years, We always ran a Strict Code and Yes we were a Members Only Club that stuck By the Rules.
Its hard for the average NON punter To Grasp the Idea that this is a Fun night out for most people and you have the Chance at anytime to walk away or Stay and More Likly win as the Odds are Stacked In Your favour.
Wake Up Ireland Its Now 2006! Its all the Typical Begrudgers In Ireland That Dont Like this and Dont Like that , Then why Dont they leave people alone to have some FUN ! Just because they have lost the meaning themselves, Or failing that Move To a Desert Island .


author by Niall - NOPOpublication date Sat Mar 25, 2006 22:18author address http://plainofpillars.blogspot.comauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Personally, I don't think that the government should ban casinos. I should be able to choose to gamble if I wish to do so. The role that the government should play should be in educating potential gamblers and in making resources available to addicts.

That said I think that McDowell will close them. He is the anti-Christ and so is opposed to individuals being given the right to choice.

Related Link: http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
author by Mr. Ironypublication date Mon Apr 24, 2006 23:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The proposal to ban private member clubs by Mc Dowell is an ignorant and wholly ineffective manner of firstly dealing with the issue of gambling addiction and also the method of money laundering from criminal activities which is, it should be known, an extremely limited occurrence.

On the first point, is it not yet again another ridiculous and draconian measure of trying to reform an unpleasant cultural characteristic through a hammer and thong approach of inhibiting? Would it not be more beneficial to work with these premises to implement strategies were those suspected of not being able to control their impulses were sat down with the Minister, and their family and friends, similar to an “intervention”. The Minister could then explain to the gambling whore the effects he is having on those around him and how if he didn’t change his ways diagrams could be produced depicting the torturous manner in which Satans little minions would reinstate his innocence upon his admittance to hell.

Secondly, whilst these clubs under current legislative structure may provide ways for criminals to reissue illegal earnings, surely this process is easily resolved through the implementation of a more stringent membership process and issuing those clubs of reputable status controlled casino licenses.

Something is most definitely amiss in a scenario where businesses and jobs can be lost on the whim of a man who has no regard for due consideration or will not acknowledge citizens rights to make personal decisions.

author by thingschangepublication date Tue Apr 25, 2006 21:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

mcdowell has not got the mojo to shut them.....he may sue over his house in rooskey...we will pay for that too... the man is a complete disgrace,,,but then again when bruton reply to the nazi slur was....hes a good minister,,,,jesus is anyone at home in fina gael.....bunch of nonrunners..so rock on aherne....your home and dry ,

author by fun luvin not criminal - napublication date Wed May 24, 2006 18:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

fancy a wager on this one micheal. Every four years or so you gamble your hard earned cash in an attempt to sustain your current livelyhood. The more you put on in the form of posters and media advertising the better chance you have of winning. If this is untrue then why spend a cent at all in the first place. Sounds like we all have the buzz but in different guises. Crossing the road is a gamble, stop being a pompous idiot protecting us all from ourselves. Make law not outlaw.

author by master morphypublication date Thu May 25, 2006 20:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the thrill of those moment between laying the bet and the seeing the result, or off the cards being shuffled and then turned over, or waiting on the dice in the tumbler to spill out. I must admit I'm not a gambler, & see the lottery as a "poverty tax" & sort of pride myself on never ever taking anything other than a calculated risk. Done loads of risky things though, (I'm not a boring chap) climbed up and down buildings but always with a safety rope. I also sort of had sex at 15 & three quarter years of age, but she was 16 and a half and a protestant to boot, so I don't think it was a sin & have never ever thought of it as a crime. If we had condoms then in Ireland we probably would have ---- gone all the way. But we didn't so we resorted to "h-e-a-v-y p-e-t-t-i-n-g" She said she wasn't prepared to gamble her chances on getting preggers the "catholic way" of either coitus interruptus or taking the temperature of her mucous every month & figuring out when she was fertile. She put it rather succintly :- "I'm almost 17. I'm fertile all the time". In later life I suppose the thought crossed my mind If I had been less interested in girls and more interested in getting points in the Leaving cert, I could have become a barrister, joined the PD's and shaped my nation's morality.
Anyway, this is probably irrelevant to this thread on yet another element of Mc Dowell's worry for our moral wellbeing. Can I add then, (to observe the guidelines) that I know 4 individuals who are barred from not only Las Vegas but the state of Nevada for being either 1) autistic savants or 2) psychics. & that so far no-one has taken up their human rights related case?

author by poker playerpublication date Thu Jul 20, 2006 14:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

... seems like the gaming industry is now going to be regulated (as suggested by this article) and not banned... maybe McDowell reads Indymedia more than he'd like to admit!!

author by Dougal - Bookerpublication date Tue Oct 02, 2007 08:21author email subtestkimomoval at fastmail dot inauthor address 255 E BROWN STauthor phone 9618532447Report this post to the editors

Members don't control the clubs and therefore they are illegal.

Related Link: http://www.pokerwildgame.com
author by B Ahearn - Ireland INCpublication date Sun Apr 26, 2009 13:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

hhahahahahahahahahahaha, illegal.

I know of at least one so called "legal" casino in Dublin.

Atariexpo has slots, roulette tables and no membership is needed at al.

They have been open for 15 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lots of people spend lot off money there and as always the poor who fall for it.

Who said gambling was illegal in ireland. hahahahahah
more brown envelopes please mr atari or should i say mr o'brien.

Ireland is fantastic for running all kinds off illegal operations
The guards and the local politicians are taken a slice of the profits to turn a blin eye.
As long as you make it worth their while. No what I mean (wink) ( wink)

Someone somewhere is allowing them to stay open.

Wonder who might let them.

ever heard of the brown envelopes issue.

Ireland is the only state in the EU where a lot of laws don't apply.

And illegal gambling is just one of them.

Long live Atari Expo. The King of Illegal Gambling for more the 15 years.

I am execting a brown envelop after having promoted your "illegal" venture mr Atari

Oh did I forget the solicitors and judges. who might also like a slice off this cake.
He , I should know it. I after all was the boss of Ireland INC

Scam, Proof, of course there is lots of proof. But no one is interested as long as Atari Expo keep making gravy
And gravy is a scares item in the Ireland Inc of today. NOT!

author by bob - Ireland Against Casinospublication date Thu Oct 29, 2009 13:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Check out www.irelandagainstcasinos.com for facts on casinos!

author by Phoenix - Social Justice and Equalitypublication date Wed Mar 19, 2014 16:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Naivety while reading this posting says - most definitely not. Minister McDowell has strong views about casinos and gambling, if you read the postings on this site.

But reading the newspapers recently tells me quite differently.

40 casinos are provided for in recent legislation.

Gambling is said to be one of the worst addictions. We know you can gamble away a family home in a nights adventure in the local casino. We think of Sun City, South Africa, or Las Vegas in the US and we can see peoples' addictions visibly but minus the pain inflicted on their families, themselves and society.

There was a move to create a metropolis for Gambling in what once was the Phoenix Park racecourse in the 1980's. People power stopped it and rightly so. FF in the early part of the last century introduced legislation to launch the National Sweepstakes which raised funds for powerful elites (Ireland as far as America) while appealing to the masses that money collected would build the much needed hospitals. The key which we should have learned by now is to prevent the elites from using gambling for their own personal gain and thereby exploiting the vulnerable. We need to at all times be aware of the vested interests and especially now.

The Moriarity Tribunal - there were some rumours about casinos, but then maybe someone else would be best placed to write about this.

Rehab cannot escape the radar and the 'gambling' modus operandi. The icing on this cake is the charitable and rehabilitative functions that this organisation, its directors and chief executives, have spearheaded. The Public Accounts Committee have summoned Angela Kerins to return in April 2014 among many other most interesting individuals so we must await the potent questioning by John McGuinness, P Mc Lochlann, Mary Lou McDonald and others which will hopefully reveal the business source of funding. What we must wonder now is there connections to 'gambling, to casinos, to lottery funding' because when you read the newspapers, tentacles seem to move to that particular sector.

Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, grabbed the thorn when he intervened in the Charitable Lotteries Fund. A class action awaits and some papers report that Rehab, if their argument is supported by the High Court, could gain euros 1.5 billion.

Who wants to throw the dice now?

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