Legal Alaska Sports Betting Remains a Ways Off

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 5, 2023 08:00 PM
Legal Alaska Sports Betting Remains a Ways Off

Up until a few years ago, there was little to no talk about sports betting in Alaska. They were among the states considering it the least. In some ways, that hasn't exactly changed. Legal Alaska sports betting still remains quite a ways off. 

However, progress on the subject has been made, even if only on an incremental basis.

It started with loose dialogue. And those discussions turned in more concrete proposals. And those proposals prompted more serious conversations.

So, where does Alaska sports betting stand in 2023? We already know they won't be introducing it in the near future. But what is the state's general impression of gambling now? And what measures have they taken to explore legal sports betting? What are the biggest roadblocks to approval? Is there a realistic timeline for when The Last Frontier might join the ranks of legal sports betting in the United States?

Consider this your one-stop shop for the status of sports gambling in Alaska.

How Close Has Alaska Sports Betting Come to Legalization So Far?

To answer this question simply: Alaska hasn't come very close to the legalization of sports betting. Ever since the United States rewrote the book on gambling at the state level in 2018, The Last Frontier has mostly held sparing talks and given the subject cursory consideration. More recently, though, that's started to change.

The first step was taken back in 2020. Governor Mike Dunleavy, who took office in 2018, proposed legislation that "would have legalized a state lottery and sports betting." The formation of a state lottery had been under the microscope for some time. But the focus on sports betting was new. In fact, according to Gaming Today, Dunleavy's gambling measure was considered an 11th-hour add-on, an addendum he tried to slip in at the last second. That didn't go over all that well. His proposal never gained any traction in the House or Senate.

Still, Dunleavy's sports betting initiative laid the groundwork for more substantial discussions two years later, in 2022. Another bill aimed at the legalization of mobile sports betting in Alaska was brought to the table, and it incited far more discussion than the last-ditch bid in 2020. Here are the full details on that initiative, including official responses from inside the state legislature, courtesy of Gaming Today:

"In February 2022, Representative Adam Wool (Democrat) introduced HB 385, a bill to permit mobile sports gambling in Alaska. The bill was referred to the Labor and Commerce committee on February 23, 2022, but was not put to a vote in the 2022 session. It was introduced late in the second session of Alaska’s two-year legislature, and Ken Alper, an aide to Wool, acknowledged at the time that 'most of these bills are presented to introduce a concept, make a point, or plan for the future; it is highly unlikely that many of them will make it through the full bicameral committee process in the remaining two to three months of session.'"

Many were hopeful this set the stage for an aggressive Alaska sports betting push in 2023. However, this year's legislative meetings came and went without a resolution. Dunleavy yet again exhibited support for another initiative, but to no avail.

Biggest Roadblocks to Sports Gambling in Alaska

Two major factors currently complicate the future of sports betting inside Alaska. First and foremost is party control. Alaska is a notoriously conservative state and likely needs more progressive decision-makers in office.

Right now, they remain overwhelmingly Republican. Governor Dunleavy, a sports betting supporter, remains an anomaly for his party. And he hasn't turned nearly enough of his peers to thoroughly improve the state's gambling outlook. Some wondered whether the 2022 elections might see a shift in the balance of power. It ultimately didn't. Republicans once again landed the majority of seats in both the House of Representatives and Senate. So long as that distribution holds, Alaska may encounter more resistance to legal sports betting than many other states.

Granted, traditional Republican ideals aren't the only barriers standing between The Last Frontier and new betting policies. A completely nonexistent gambling infrastructure sits just as high on the list—if not higher.

Alaska has neither a state lottery nor land casinos. Any legalization of sports betting will likely entail setting up both, an undertaking many officials aren't keen on.

Potential Timeline for Alaska Sports Betting

Opponents tend to believe that as a state detached from the rest of the country, without a pro sports market, Alaska won't have a demand for legal betting. Those sentiments don't seem accurate.

Back in 2021, the state of Alaska commissioned a study to find out whether residents supported the introduction of sports betting. This process ended up estimating that Alaskans spend nearly $350 million on sports betting outside the state. 

Part of this number factored in trips to states with legal sports betting in place. But residents have to fly if they're going to travel to another state. Most of Alaska's gambling business is currently taking place online. That's the easiest alternative at their disposal. After all, plenty of reputable sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks allow just about anyone to set up an account—regardless of where they live.

Could the rising popularity of off-shore sports betting in Alaska push the state to reconsider their position? Perhaps. But any measure will likely require a constitutional amendment. That means it must be put to a vote.

The next general election takes place in 2024. And since Alaska wrapped up 2023 legislative sessions without approving a sports betting initiative, the earliest a gambling law can appear on a general election ballot is probably 2026.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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