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Daily fantasy sports in Alaska are completely legal, with leagues such as FanDuel and DraftKings offering contests to thousands of Alaskans. The state sees these opportunities not as games of chance, but rather as something of a hobby that requires a degree of skill and knowledge. As a result, they are not categorized as gambling, and therefore the state's gambling laws do not apply to them.
There are also online skill games offered by WorldWinner, where gamers can play titles such as Spades and Bejeweled for real money. Players play against one another, agreeing to a wager before the game gets underway. Again, as these are seen as games of skill against an opponent, they are legal under the existing legislation.
Alaska has no history of gambling like some other states, so there are no racetracks or sportsbooks. However, Alaskans can compete in charity gambling, where they bet on fishing competitions or sled racing. Unlike more typical forms of sports gambling, Alaskan players guess a time and the person who comes closest wins. All of the profits earned from these types of events go to charity and may not be donated to political parties or lobbyists.
However, wagers on other sports like football or basketball is still illegal. There appears little push from state lawmakers to join the sports betting legalization effort.
Alaska has produced two World Series of Poker (WSOP) winners, Perry Green and Greg Hobson, which shows the strong tradition of online poker in Alaska. Green, a former fur trader, even spoke to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in 2005, advocating the legalization of poker. He reasoned that there was a vibrant underground poker community in Alaska and that legislation in its favor would allow the state to profit from it. Lawmakers passed legislation but the steep licensing fee deterred any partners.
So for now that means just like online casinos in Alaska, online poker is also illegal. Though the WSOP success shows there was interest, the state has not moved toward legalization recently. The Last Frontier also has to deal with challenges from remote areas that might struggle to find a stable internet connection to enjoy more than a few hands.
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Alaska is geographically the largest U.S. state and the most sparsely populated, with a total population of fewer than 750,000 people. Its remoteness, and the subsequent lack of internet connectivity in more rural areas, help explain why online gambling in Alaska has not been a hot topic for the snowy state. That is not to say that there is no gambling at all in the Last Frontier, but there is no rush there to create legislation around online casinos.
Much of Alaska’s recent legislation has centered on pull tabs, a variation of scratch cards, where players pull a tab off a card to reveal symbols in hopes of a winning combination. While gambling in brick-and-mortar casinos remains illegal, the state laws are somewhat more open around poker, daily fantasy sports and online gambling.
Almost 30 years since the state's first vote on the matter, Alaskans again vote on the subject of legalizing gambling. Although the vote ultimately rejected legislation, the ratio showed a shift upward in its favor.
Alaska rejects the creation of a state lottery, despite public opinion largely in favor of one.
Gambling is briefly legal on Alaskan waters this year, when the state offered cruise ships the right to operate in exchange for a one-off fee. Despite the state earning more than $500,000, the law was never renewed. However, cruise ships still visit Alaska and may offer guests casino games when in international or Canadian waters.
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) orders the construction of a casino on tribal land near the city of Klawock. However, the state pre-empted the casino’s opening by passing a law that banned wheel, card and dice games. This did not deter the NIGC, which later opened a bingo hall in Klawock and another in Metlakatla.
On the back of Gnatensky’s campaign, Alaska holds a vote to decide whether to legalize gambling and create an official gaming commission. The final tally was almost 2-1 against the measure.
Mike Von Gnatensky runs in the primaries as a nonpartisan candidate for mayor of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. One of the linchpins of his campaign was his promise to legalize casinos in Alaska and thus bring investment to the city. However, Gnatensky failed to garner enough votes to win a spot on the general-election ballot.
Pull-tab games are legalized, with businesses and charities allowed to apply for a permit to sell them.
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