Alaska Gambling and Casinos
Alaska is one of the biggest American states in geographical size and one of the smallest in terms of population. No more than 750,000 people call The Last Frontier State home. Alaska has traditionally been a conservative state politically, and it hasn’t gone through the sea change in political thinking about gaming law that other American states have.
Alaska earns a ton of revenue from the oil industry – Alaskans themselves earn a check from the state every year for nothing more than being an Alaskan – so the idea of added revenue from gaming is simply not attractive enough to change old anti-gaming laws. The end-result is a state that has some of the strictest anti-gaming laws in the entire country.
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Is Gambling Legal in Alaska?
Yes – in an extremely limited form.
Alaska does not have casinos because just about every type of gambling is declared to be explicitly illegal by the state penal code. The amount of anti-gaming legislation that remains on the books is staggering, considering how much other states (even nearby ones like Washington and Oregon) have changed over the years. According to polls, public opinion in the state is still slightly against the legalization of gambling. Even the people of Alaska don’t seem to want to add any new forms of legal gaming.
Alaska doesn’t even have a state lottery and doesn’t allow its citizens to participate in any other state or national lotteries. Only seven other US states have similar anti-lottery laws.
While you won’t find blackjack, slots, or poker in Alaska, you can take part in “charitable gambling,” as long as the games in question follow some very specific requirements set forth by the Alaska State Gaming Board.
Alaskans may organize and operate “traditional games of chance and skill” as long as the person or persons operating the games don’t profit at all from its operation. That means they can’t charge an entry fee or even sell snacks or other refreshments during the games. Restrictions also exist in terms of what charities are allowed to hold these games – the law is really dense on the subject.
One other legal way to gamble exists – so-called “social gambling,” in which people play poker or other games of chance and skill in private homes among friends. As is to be expected from such a conservative state, the laws clearly define what the state means by “social.” Basically, your game is legal if takes place “… in a private home where no house player, house bank, or house odds exist, and where there is no house income from the operation of the game.”
A Note on Internet Gaming in Alaska
I’m surprised to see that Alaska law does not make online gambling in any form explicitly illegal. As far as I can tell, that means the state isn’t interested in busting anyone for playing online poker or blackjack or placing an online sports bet. I’m not a lawyer – that’s just my opinion. If you’re really worried about, please consult an actual legal professional.
More Facts about Alaska Gaming Law
As is often the case in American states that are anti-gambling, the government doesn’t seem all that interested in busting individual gamblers at all. State law focuses more on punishments and regulations regarding the operators of illicit gambling houses and illegal bookmakers. At no time in state history has a bettor been investigated, arrested, or charged with any crime related to placing a bet.
In State Code 11.66.200, Alaska law defines that offense as “… engaging in … any gambling not explicitly made legal by act of law.” That’s interesting wording, isn’t it? It makes things pretty clear, if you think about it. If you’re playing a game that the state government has not said is legal, you’re breaking the law. That kind of broad language is another indicator of the state’s overall outlook on the hobby. It also could give the state traction in charging someone for placing an online bet, since Web-based wagering is not “explicitly legalized” by the state.
Confusing, isn’t it? Interesting side note – if the state were to charge someone for placing an illegal bet, it would be a pretty serious felony. A change to the law made in the 70s allows for a person to receive an official warning on a first offense for illegal gambling – that’s an oddly soft bit of legislation for a state that’s otherwise so deadest against the practice.
However, if a person were to be charged with a second offense of unlawful gambling in the state, they’d automatically be a felon, face an automatic 90 days or more in jail, and be responsible for fines as high as $15,000.
But remember, this just hasn’t happened before, and it doesn’t seem like the state is actively going after people within the state’s borders for the offense of illegal gambling.
Unless you are playing a game that’s inside a state-approved charitable function, or you’re playing in a social game that obeys the rules as established by state code, all gambling is illegal in the state of Alaska.
Alaska recently became one of the first US states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. That implies the state has a new libertarian side to it that could lead to loosened regulations regarding gambling. After all, tourism is a big deal in the state, and with recreational marijuana tourism likely to increase those numbers even more, legal gambling (or at least a state lottery system to start with) could be a nice revenue stream, even for a state with a steady injection of oil cash to keep it afloat.