Alaska Might Consider Expanded Gambling To Cover Budget Shortfalls

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The regular legislative session in Alaska ended with several questions still unanswered. This led to the need for a special session that is currently underway, but it looks like the additional time won’t be enough, either. As the state tries to figure out its budget, a second special session is going to be necessary, and Governor Mike Dunleavy plans on asking lawmakers to consider a number of possibilities to offset revenue losses, including the possibility of authorizing new gambling options in the state.

Alaska Could Embrace Sports Gambling

Alaska is one of only a few states in the US that has repeatedly resisted attempts to introduce expanded gambling. However, reeling from the damage caused by COVID-19, that could soon change. As has been the case with other states, Alaska is realizing that sports gambling and other forms of gambling can provide substantial benefits to cover its revenue losses. However, any effort to provide new gambling alternatives won’t be given an enthusiastic welcome by a number of legislators.

A special legislative session was called by Governor Dunleavy on May 20, but it still hasn’t produced any concrete results. The regular session ended a day earlier with no clear direction on how to balance the state’s budget, and the first special session isn’t any closer to providing a resolution. A second session is likely to be necessary and the governor has indicated that expanded gambling might be put on the table, but he hasn’t clarified what would be offered and how. There are a few tribal casinos in the state, but they are limited to what they can offer as their land doesn’t fit the full criteria as defined by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A Long Way to Go With Time Running Out

According to Must Read Alaska, there is still no operating, capital or mental health budget approval in the state, and the special session ends in a week. If something can’t happen by June 18, the government might be forced to shut down temporarily and some government employees could be left without a job. While expanded gambling might be the quickest route to receive new revenue, with some states having been able to go from legislation to launch in a matter of months, there is already resistance to the idea and indications that a lengthy process would be required. State Revenue Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney wants to see the numbers before supporting sports gambling in the state, which means a lengthy – and costly – study might be needed before any progress is made.

The Alaskan Department of Revenue has tried to offer some idea of the revenue potential previously. It said last year that legalized card games could bring in $2.3 million or even as much as $1.2 billion, if the state were to introduce a sales and use tax as has been seen in other states. Some lawmakers believe that there isn’t enough money to support the Alaska Permanent Fund, essentially a constitutionally-guaranteed basic income strategy for state residents, with a gap of more than $1 billion potentially coming. Despite the urgency of the situation, if a second legislative session is needed, it won’t be convened until this August.

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