Historically, the state of Alaska has been one of the most anti-gambling states in the union. But the state’s Revenue Department recently commissioned a $400,000 study to focus on the feasibility of implementing expanded gambling in Alaska.
According to a report from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the study will look at the potential for legal gambling, including casinos, sports betting and a state lottery.
Most forms of gambling are currently illegal within the state’s borders. Class III gaming, which includes most traditional Las Vegas-style casino gambling options, is prohibited, which is why there are no commercial casinos. There are two tribal casinos, however, but they are glorified bingo halls, limited to just Class II gaming. Those tribal properties are the only forms of legal gambling.
In the face of a massive budget deficit, Gov. Mike Dunleavy began changing his tune on the issue. In January, during his State of the State speech, Dunleavy voiced support for gambling.
“This session, I’ll be supporting legislation to bring gaming to Alaska. Alaska can no longer afford to deny itself a revenue stream available to nearly every other state in the nation,” said Dunleavy. “Along with enhancing revenue, gaming could create hundreds of high-paying jobs in some of our communities, and we would join a long list of states that have embraced gaming for some time.”
Dunleavy went on to hire a consultant to spearhead the study backed by the Revenue Department, who will suggest the best locations for a possible Alaskan casino and figure out how many tourists could be drawn to them, as well as how much new tax revenue could be raised.
The study is projected to be finished by December, but according to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, the state has the option to extend it into next year.
Dunleavy told lawmakers that he wanted them to work on possible gambling legislation for the special session in August. Given the timeframe of the study, and Dunleavy’s lack of focus on any potential downside, next year seems like a more reasonable target for any legislative action.