The Senate Committee on State Affairs held hearings concerning sports betting in Alaska.

  • Senate Bill 188, which would legalize Alaska sports betting, was given its first hearing on Tuesday.
  • The market could make millions annually that would help close the huge budget deficit in the state.

JUNEAU, AlaskaSenate Bill 188, a piece of legislation that would legalize sports betting in Alaska received its first hearing in the Senate Committee on State Affairs on Tuesday.

The bill was introduced to the Committee and many people weighed in on how they felt on the issue. AK SB 188 would establish an Alaska Lottery Corporation as well as offer residents sports betting.

The Bill

Bill AK SB 188 was brought about at the request of Governor Mike Dunleavy. The Governor is looking for new untapped revenue streams for the Last Frontier State in the face of a $1.5 billion budget deficit. Making sports betting legal and having a state lottery could bridge that gap with annual revenue estimated to be in the millions.

Estimates of $100 million in yearly revenue would go toward many programs in Alaska to include the education system as well as various programs geared to help those in need. Senate Bill 188 would make sports betting, keno, scratch-offs and the lottery all legal for residents to play.

The Hearing

There was both support and opposition for legalizing sports betting in Alaska and for other gambling activities as well when the Senate Bill received its introduction. Lawmakers were able to hear from both ends of the spectrum as to how people felt on the issue.

Both sides brought up good points that will need to be evaluated further in the future.

“The problems that could result from a proliferation of new gambling venues and systems in the state are profound, ranging from exacerbated crime and drug sales to millions of dollars of revenue funneled out of state to Lower 48 casino and gambling businesses who care little about Alaska’s best interest. This is no deficit fix,” said Sandra Powers, President of the Alaska Charitable Gaming Alliance.

Another opposed constituent was also from a charitable gaming organization. Jack Heesch, the President of the Anchorage Youth & Recreation has said that his organization profits from charitable gaming and that those funds could be lost if sports betting and gambling was made legal by AK SB 188.

“Some say, disingenuously, expanded gaming will allow charitable gaming to continue as is. The more likely truth is that charitable gaming will be irreparably damaged. That damage is the unintended consequence of expanded gambling that must be addressed in the further consideration of any gambling proposal,” said Heesch.

Support was heard from none other than the top sports betting company in the nation, DraftKings. They are behind Alaska’s new venture should it come to fruition.

“DraftKings supports a sports wagering framework in Alaska that protects consumers, generates maximum revenue for the state, and stamps out the pervasive illegal market,” said Christopher Cipolla, the Senior Manager, Government Affairs for DraktKings Inc.

“That means a robust mobile sports betting market without an artificial limit on mobile competition and no unnecessary hurdles for consumers to bet in the regulated market. It is important to recognize that sports wagering is already taking place in Alaska on a massive scale, with an estimated 138,000 people betting over $348 million in illegal wagers each year.”

The Bottom Line

There is still plenty that needs to occur for Alaska’s Senate Bill 188 to become law in the state. This was just the first introduction to the Alaska State Legislature. There are all kinds of opinions on sports betting legalization that need to be considered.

The session ends in May so any decisions regarding this piece of legislation need to happen before then.

An expedited session may be in the cards due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If that’s the case, things need to move even more quickly if the Frontier State plans to have legal sports betting in 2020. No future hearings have been placed on the calendar.

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