Alaska is not a gambling-friendly state by any stretch. Not only are the online betting options extremely limited, but so are the land-based options. Alaska has no state lottery, no physical casinos, no horse racing tracks and no legal poker rooms. Online betting is similarly restricted with nearly all forms of internet wagering restricted.
As far as online betting goes, the only legal options for Alaskans are fantasy sports betting and skill games. Online poker and casino games are out of the question as well and there are no plans to change that any time soon. Even online horse wagering is prohibited in the state.
Offshore gaming is always an option of course, but it does entail some level of risk. Not to mention that it’s technically illegal to participate in unlawful gambling under Alaskan law. I say “technically” because there appears to be zero interest in pursuing those who gamble online. The greatest risk is one of finances; offshore gaming sites operate under the laws of their host nations, which aren’t always all that strict.
Legal Betting Sites for Residents of Alaska
The legal online betting options in Alaska consist of three major gaming sites. Each of these is considered legal because what they offer is determined to be contests of skill. The following betting sites are completely legal under all state and federal laws.
Out of these two forms of gambling, fantasy sports is by far the most popular. The industry is currently in a growth phase and hundreds of contests are hosted every day at the two largest fantasy sports sites. FanDuel and DraftKings are both home to week-long fantasy leagues in which the top prizes sometimes reach a million dollars or more.
This is the closest thing to legal sports betting available in Alaska. In many ways, fantasy sports require the same skill as fixed-odds sports betting. An understanding of stats, finding value and bankroll management are all useful in getting an edge over the competition.
The online skill games offered by WorldWinner consist of traditional games such as Spades and modern games such as Bejeweled that are played for real money. You and an opponent each agree to an amount of money to wager and the winner of the game wins the bet. Skill games aren’t hugely popular so the amount of competition and potential winnings are limited.
Is it legal to play online poker in Alaska?
Online poker isn’t specifically mentioned in any of Alaska’s statutes but its definition of gambling could easily be applied to online poker:
“Gambling” means that a person stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that that person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome…
The state has no plans to create a licensing system for online poker so there are no options to play poker online in an expressly legal environment. Unlike many other states, Alaska does not have any pending legislation to even consider legalizing online poker and nobody seems interested in proposing a bill to change that.
Alaskans who insist on playing poker are left with two options. One is to play at unlicensed offshore sites hosted in other countries. State laws indicate that any form of unlawful gambling (the state does define poker as gambling) could result in a misdemeanor offense. This has never happened, however, and probably won’t. The biggest risk online poker players take is sending their money to poker sites that operate under little scrutiny.
Social gambling is permitted if it takes place at a private residence and the house takes no commission or profits off the activity in any way. So, it’s legal to set up a private game with your friends but it would not be legal to host a game in which you charge a fee or keep any portion of the buyins as a profit.
Much of the above discussion about online poker also pertains to online casinos. The state has no plans in place to legalize or regulate the industry. The state doesn’t even allow land-based casinos on tribal land. If you do wish to gamble online in Alaska, your only option is to play at unregulated sites hosted in other countries.
Some offshore gaming sites are fairly safe, but the problem is players have no legal recourse if things go wrong. There have been numerous instances in the past in which foreign betting sites have closed shop with no warning and left players unable to cash out their account balances.
Social gambling is allowed but great care must be taken to avoid running afoul of the law. The house must take no profit whatsoever. This includes entrance fees, odds that benefit the house and any other method by which the house may earn money. Gambling devices are banned in Alaska unless used only for purposes of social gambling but again, care must be taken to ensure the house earns no income through the use of such devices.
Alaska does not have a state lottery and there is little interest in changing that. The state’s last attempt to set up a lottery was defeated in 2006 and there are no plans to bring up the issue again any time soon. This makes Alaska one of just seven states in the US that have no lottery.
There’s also no legal method to purchase lottery tickets online in Alaska. Federal laws prevent the sale of tickets by mail or internet to residents of other states. This means you cannot, for example, purchase Powerball tickets online. Websites that claim to sell tickets for out-of-state lotteries to Alaskans operate contrary to law.
The Powerball website makes this very clear in its FAQ:
Can I buy Powerball tickets through the internet?
No. Start with that answer and then slowly back into “sometimes”. Gambling is illegal in the United States. A State has the right to gamble or create a lottery ONLY within its borders. When a game or information about a game cross a state line, or the national border, then it falls into federal jurisdiction. So, some lotteries do sell TO THEIR RESIDENTS through the Internet but not across their state line. Powerball tickets can only legally be purchased at a state lottery sales terminal in the lottery jurisdictions that sells the Powerball game. A lottery can also legally sell tickets on the Internet, but only to persons within its own state. No one can sell lottery tickets by mail or over the Internet across state lines or the U.S. national border. No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that web site. Or that one. You really don’t need to send me questions about a specific site. None of them can legally sell lottery tickets across a state border or the U.S. border. No.
The only form of lottery legal in Alaska is one licensed by the state for the purpose of charitable fundraising. Qualified organizations are limited to awarding a maximum of $2,000,000 in prizes in any single year. Thus, the state does hold the occasional small lottery or raffle.
One of the largest lotteries in recent times was a 2009 lottery that raised funds for the charitable group Standing Together Against Rape (STAR). The winner of that one took home $500,000. Interestingly, the winner of the grand prize was himself a convicted sex offender.