Recent Alaska sports betting legalization efforts speak to changing attitudes in a state that has traditionally opposed most forms of gaming. Legislation introduced in 2020 would have authorized sports betting in Alaska had it passed, but an early end to the legislative session put that idea to bed – at least for the short term.
Currently, daily fantasy sports serve as the sole alternative to legal sports betting in Alaska. Horse racing betting, casinos and online gambling are also prohibited under current Alaska gambling laws.
Legal Betting Sites for Residents of Alaska
Legal online betting options in Alaska consist of major DFS sites. Each of these is considered legal because what it offers is determined to be a contest of skill rather than gambling. The following betting sites are legal under all state and federal laws.
Daily fantasy sports is the most popular form of online gambling in Alaska, and serve as the next best thing to legal sports betting.
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.
Sports Betting in Alaska
State law prohibits sports betting in Alaska, but there are reasons to believe that will not be the case forever.
A pair of companion bills introduced in early 2020 sought to establish a state lottery and give it authorization to offer sports betting “through the use of any media, including electronic terminals, computer, and the Internet.”
With the full backing of Governor Dunleavy, who actually introduced the bills himself, the legislation entered the picture with momentum on its side. However, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 prompted lawmakers to end the legislative session early, thereby derailing the legislation.
Although the bill failed to gain traction, the prospects for legal Alaska sports betting are higher now than ever before in a state with few gambling options.
Unless and until new legislation is passed, state law considers it a violation to participate in illegal gambling for the first offense.
AK Stat § 11.66.280 defines gambling as follows:
“…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.”
This definition can be applied to sports betting, making it a form of illegal gambling until state law changes.
In the meantime, daily fantasy sports sites offer the next best thing to full-fledged sports betting.
Alaska Horse Racing Betting
Horse racing betting is prohibited in Alaska as it falls under the state’s definition of unlawful gambling and no exceptions have been made to the law since.
Alaska does not have any horse racing track or off-track betting locations (OTBs). Additionally, horse racing betting sites are prohibited in Alaska.
At this point, there appears to be no great desire among lawmakers to change the state’s stance on parimutuel wagering. No bills have been introduced to authorize horse racing betting in recent memory.
The closest thing to an exception is that charitable organizations are permitted to accept wagers on dog mushing if they adhere to specific regulations adopted by the Department of Revenue. Specifically, the Department of Revenue states “dog mushers’ contests” must be organized in one of two formats:
- Prizes are awarded for guessing the correct racing time of a dog team or of the team’s position in the races
- Prizes are awarded to the closest guesses on “at least three elements of uncertainty about a dog sled race that cannot be determined” prior to the start of the race
The Iditarod took advantage of this rule for the first time in decades in 2020 when it accepted entries for fans to make a “trifecta” of guesses on the following results:
- Winning musher
- Winning musher’s finishing time
- Winning musher’s number of dogs to cross the finish line
Is Online Gambling Legal in Alaska?
Online Poker in Alaska
The legality of online poker is not specifically addressed by Alaska law, but the state’s definition of gambling as discussed above easily applies to poker.
As a result, no licensed poker sites operate in Alaska. State law is clear on the matter and would need to be changed via new legislation to open the state to legal online poker. On that note, state lawmakers have made no recent attempts to legalize online poker via the introduction of new legislation.
In-person poker is similarly outlawed except in the case of home poker games that meet the following definition:
“…gambling in a home where no house player, house bank, or house odds exist and where there is no house income from the operation of the game.”
Anyone considering running a home game should speak with an attorney, but what the above passage indicates is players may participate in private games as long as the organizer does not charge a rake, entry fee or otherwise seek to make money by running the game such as selling food or drinks to participants.
Alaska Online Casinos
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.
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.
Land-based casinos on tribal land are permitted to a limited degree in Alaska. Two facilities offer bingo style games and pull tabs while a handful of others operate charitable bingo games.
Alaska State Lottery
Alaska is one of just a few states in the US without a lottery but there is clearly interest among lawmakers in changing that.
In February 2020, Governor Mike Dunleavy introduced SB 188 and HB 246 to form the Alaska Lottery Corporation and authorize it to offer draw games, instant win games, keno and sports betting. Had the bill passed, it would have also approved online lottery sales.
The effort was sidelined by the Coronavirus pandemic, but support from the governor and certain key lawmakers could very well push such a bill past the finish line should it be reintroduced.
In the meantime, there are no legal methods to purchase lottery tickets in Alaska. Federal law prohibits the sale of tickets by mail or online to residents of other states. This means players cannot, for example, buy Powerball tickets online. Websites that claim to sell tickets for out of-state lotteries to Alaskans operate contrary to state law.
The Powerball website makes this very clear in its FAQ.
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.