Is Online Poker Legal or Illegal in Alaska?
The Alaska poker laws do not specifically name online poker as a legal or illegal form of gambling.
What about gambling in general? Can I gamble in Alaska?
Native Americans have the right to offer gambling facilities on reservations per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1986. However, there are no full-fledged casinos because Alaska does not permit slot machines. There are several bingo halls and pull-tab facilities – seven in total across the state – all of which are small in scale and cater to local communities.
Considering the cold climate of Alaska, it should be no surprise that betting on dog mushers’ contests are allowed, but no other racing or off-track wagering is permitted. Bingo is specifically permitted, as are games that relate to mushing, ice fishing, and snow machine racing.
Social gaming in a home is also allowed, though there are few specifics as to the scope and limitations of the legal activities.
Alaska Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
Chapter 11.66 of the Alaska Statutes discusses “offenses against public health and decency.” It is under this umbrella that gambling is listed after prostitution and before adult entertainment businesses. Article 2 (11.66.200) specifies gambling offenses but in rather vague terms.
Gambling is defined in the statute as meaning “that a person stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that that person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
As for the contest of chance definition, it means
“a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that the skill of the contestants may also be a factor.”
Poker could fall under these definitions, but it is unclear. The law also states that “an affirmative defense to a prosecution” under this statute is that “the defendant was a player in a social game,” as social gaming within the home is legal. Another defense is that gambling records are not criminal in nature if “possessed by the defendant solely as a player.”
A gambling device is defined as
“any device, machine paraphernalia, or equipment that is used or usable in the playing phases of unlawful gambling, whether it consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine.”
And a player is regarded by law as
“a person who engages in gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, believing that the risk of losing and the chances of winning are the same for all participants except for the advantages of skill and luck, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit from gambling other than personal gambling winnings and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct, or operation of the particular gambling activity, except that, for purposes of this paragraph, a person who gambles at a social game on equal terms with the other participants does not ‘otherwise render material assistance’ to the establishment, conduct, or operation by performing, without fee or remuneration, acts directed towards the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises for the game, or supplying cards or other equipment used in the game.”
Other key components of the statute include:
- More than one unlawful gambling conviction may result in fines of up to $1,000.
- Promoting gambling is a class C felony.
- Promoting or profiting from online gambling is a class A misdemeanor.
- Possessing gambling records used or for the intended use of promoting or operating gambling enterprises is a crime.
The wording of Alaska gambling law is stricter than in some other states. Though it permits social gaming, the definition of a player who may facilitate a game – even social – seems to override that definition.
The laws could be interpreted a number of ways, especially as they would pertain to online gambling, which is not specifically addressed.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Alaska
There has been no activity regarding poker laws in the past several years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are online poker players committing a crime when playing?
Answer: The Alaskan laws are strict, but online poker players have never been prosecuted by the state. It is highly unlikely that officials would take action against any players online.
Question: Are poker sites violating Alaskan law by offering services to players there?
Answer: The laws have never been challenged in such a way as to determine their applicability to online poker. There are no poker operators who host their servers in Alaska, though, and they do not specifically pursue Alaskan players with special promotions. It is unlikely that Alaskan prosecutors would pursue online poker companies.
Question: Would Alaska consider legalizing online poker?
Answer: There has never been a concerted effort to pursue online poker legalization and regulation in Alaska, so it is unclear how legislators would react to such a bill.
- Abbreviation: AK
- Nickname: The Last Frontier
- Capital: Juneau
- Largest city: Anchorage
- Population: 741,894 (48th of 50 states)
- Area: 663,268 square miles
- Famous poker players: Perry Green