Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy Pitches State Lottery, Sports Betting to Help Bridge Budget Deficit

Posted on: February 13, 2020, 09:08h. 

Last updated on: February 13, 2020, 10:49h.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) has introduced legislation that seeks to form a state-run lottery system in hopes of generating new forms of tax revenue. If passed, sports betting could also be legalized.

Alaska lottery sports betting
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is in favor of bringing a lottery and sports betting to the state. (Image: KTUU)

Submitted to the Senate Rules Committee, SB 188 would establish the Alaska Lottery Corporation and task the agency with regulating games of chance and potentially sports betting. Along with state-operated lottery drawings and scratch-offs, the legislation would allow for participation in multi-state games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, and authorize electronic lottery terminals.

“In the face of low state revenues, my administration has been actively seeking new revenue sources to diversify our economy. Not only does this legislation have the potential of creating new business opportunities, the profits generated from lottery activities will be designated to K-12 education, domestic violence prevention programs, drug abuse prevention programs, foster care, and homelessness,” Dunleavy said.

Alaska is one of only five states without a lottery. The first-term governor added, “I believe it is time we, as a state, have the conversation on the potential benefits that could come from a state lottery.”

Dunleavy’s bill would allow the lottery games and sports betting operations to be conducted “through the use of any media, including electronic terminals, computers, and the internet.”

Controversial Topic, Governor

Dunleavy took office in December of 2018. The conservative has made many opponents by proposing deep budget cuts to various programs, including public assistance, education, and the University of Alaska.

An effort to force a recall on his election win was denied by the Division of Elections. The agency said that while the necessary petition signatures were submitted and validated, the governor did not meet one of three criminal offenses required to force a recall. The three offenses are “neglect of duty, incompetence, or lack of fitness.”

Now, the governor is proposing The Last Frontier get in on the gambling game. Alaska is one of three states – Hawaii and Utah, the others – that does not have a lottery, parimutuel facility, commercial or tribal casino, racetrack casino, online gambling, or sports betting.

Dunleavy’s administration estimates the state could receive between $5 million and $10 million annually from a lottery and sports betting, the final number dependent on which games are permitted.

Opponents Respond

Dunleavy’s lottery suggestion faced immediate backlash from his Democratic rivals. “It still doesn’t solve Alaska’s fundamental fiscal problem,” Sen. Jesse Kiehl (D-Juneau) stated.

Other proposals to generate new forms of revenue include increasing the motor fuel tax, a $30 per year tax increase on individual wages, and changes to the state’s oil tax structure.

Alaska sort of dabbed its feet in a quasi-lottery when it held its first statewide raffle in January. For every $100 donated to the state’s public education fund, residents received one entry into the raffle. Prize money from the drawing totaled $32,600.

State citizens receive an annual payment from the Alaska Permanent Fund in the form of a dividend. Only that money received could be used to donate and purchase raffle tickets.