Does Alaska Permit Gambling on its Territory?
While Alaska often seems closer to Canada than to the US, this detached state has a unique set of rules and regulations when it comes to gambling.
Alaska is a bit of an anomaly as it is one of only two states that are not directly connected to the mainland USA. Geographically, one could say that it would make more sense for Alaska to have been part of Canada than of our southern neighbour. The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for US$7,67 million. Although seen as a non-perspective buy at the time, it was the discovery of oil and gold at the beginning of the 20th century that made Alaska a lucrative acquisition.
Can I Gamble in Alaska?
From the time Alaska associated itself as a territory of the US, it prohibited any form of gambling. The primary reason for this was that Alaska was, and remains, sparsely populated, and with a small population, state gambling would not be profitable. The ruralness of the state also hindered many businesses from basing themselves there.
Are There Any Gambling Loopholes in Alaska?
While it is officially illegal to gamble in Alaska, there are some forms of gambling available:
While casino gambling is not permitted, that doesn’t stop the Alaskans from enjoying it. During the summer cruise ship season, locals are allowed to embark and gamble aboard once the ships pull out of the state’s territorial waters. Most cruise ships today offer luxury casino facilities, including table games and slots. There are even cruise ships that cater exclusively to high rollers, and some even host poker tournaments, which are highly popular in Alaska.
Unlike other no-gambling states, Alaska doesn’t prohibit online gambling or sports betting. As a result, Alaskans can play at online casinos, as well as online poker, both of which are popular due to the state’s long winter. Alaskans can also place bets on various sports, with football and hockey being the most well-liked.
While online wagering is not strictly prohibited, the Alaskan attorney general’s office has been pushing for the local anti-gambling laws to cover online gambling as well. However, no legislative move has been made so far to change the existing legal framework.
Prop bets are king in Alaska, with thousands of wagers placed every year on the outcome of sledge dog races. But prop bets are not only limited to dogs, with people betting on various things like the number of salmons that make it into a port or how much they weigh. Punters might even bet on when the first polar bear would wander into a town or when the first crane returns.
Additionally, charity gambling allows for social poker games and casino nights. The only stipulation is that no one profits from hosting these events. However, charities that conduct gaming must first obtain a license from the state.
Interestingly, there are no tribal casinos in Alaska, even though 25 per cent of the population is Native American. This is because most of the Native Americans live in villages and not on reservations. These villages operate independently with little to no control from the state. However, the villages don’t have the same style of self-government as reservations in the continental US.
While federal laws allow casinos on reservations, the Alaskan villages do not fall under that provision. Those villages that organise gambling can host bingo games with a small prize limit and pull-tab cards. Pull-tab cards operate like lottery scratch cards, but instead of scratching the cards, you pull paper tabs.
Alaska does not run a state lottery, and it doesn’t partake in multistate lottery games either. However, pull-tabs are legal and can be bought from charities or in tribal villages. Convenience stores sell these as well.