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Sports betting simplified
Despite its low population and massive footprint, Alaska has plenty of wealth thanks to its thriving economy based on the energy industry. Also, Alaska’s culture has an independent spirit that is among the strongest in the United States. Those traits of a strong economy, wealth, and independent-minded citizens are a perfect fit for legalized sports gambling. And yet, as of 2023, there is no sports gambling in Alaska.
There are currently no legal sports betting options available in Alaska. As it stands, gambling is limited to fantasy sports, bingo, and dog sledding. Even still, bingo and dogsledding are only available when run by a charitable organization.
After the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned on May 14, 2018, each US state can create its sports betting laws and regulations. Still, Alaska has been slow to address the issue.
Fantasy sports are allowed in Alaska due to the wording in the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which classifies fantasy sports as a game of chance.
Given Alaska’s separation from the rest of the United States, there are few alternatives nearby for Alaskans to place a sports wager in person. Washington is the closest state with legalized sports betting and can only be reached from AK after a days-long drive through Canada.
There seems to be a lack of urgency in regulating sports betting in Alaska. From a revenue standpoint, Alaska has been prosperous thanks to its successful oil industry. As a result, the potential tax benefits of legalizing sports betting in Alaska are not as enticing as in other states.
That being said, there were attempts to legalize sports betting in Alaska in 1987, 1990, 1993, and 2008. The latest attempt saw a referendum shot down by most of the state’s voters.
Sentiment does seem to be changing, with Alaska’s fiscal budget facing a large deficit. Governor Mike Dunleavy proposed two bills in early 2020, SB 188 and HB 246, allowing for multiple forms of legal gambling, including sports betting. The bills were known as The Alaska Lottery Corporation Act.
Alaskan residents spend an estimated $348 million annually on sports betting out-of-state, and legalization could bring in at least $100 million annually. Hopes were high for these bills to gain approval. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Alaska state legislature ended its session early, allowing the bills to expire in May.
Alaska’s governor is spearheading the state's effort to legalize sports betting. There is hope that legal sports betting could make its way to Alaska in the coming years.
On Feb. 22, 2022, Rep. Adam Wool introduced HB 385, a bill that would legalize and regulate online sports betting in Alaska while placing a tax on daily fantasy sports and online sports betting revenue. The bill made it to the Labor and Commerce Committee, but that’s where it remained when the Legislature adjourned in May 2022.
On Feb. 12, 2020, Gov. Mike Dunleavy made the first real attempt to legalize sports betting in the state. Dunleavy introduces legislation that would have legalized a state lottery and sports betting, as the latter slipped into the list of lottery games that the legislation listed. The bill never progressed out of committee in either chamber.
In 2008, Alaska residents voted to decide whether to authorize gambling facilities in the state. The measure loses, with 61.36% voting no.
In 2003, Lawmakers introduced a bill that would legalize a state lottery, but the legislation did not progress out of committee.
Sadly, Alaskans shouldn’t expect sports betting to be legal anytime soon. The combination of Alaska’s vast land area, small population, and lack of major sports teams makes legalization unappealing for sportsbooks. That means sports betting companies are less likely to lobby the government to get the industry off the ground and begin offering online sports betting promos.
As previously noted, despite the obstacles the sports betting industry faces, there have been a couple of attempts to get the ball rolling on legalization, including Rep. Adam Wool introducing a bill in February 2022, HB 385, that would authorize and regulate online sports betting.
The Alaska Legislature adjourned in May 2022 with the bill still in front of the House Labor and Commerce Committee. Alaska’s Legislature convenes on Jan. 23, 2023.