Another state has been added to the growing list of those considering the possible legalization of sports gambling. While legislators in some states, such as Maine, have had a difficult time convincing their governors to agree to the activity, Alaska is in a slightly different position. The push for legalized sports wagers is starting at the very top of the legislative food chain.
Alaska’s governor, Mike Dunleavy, drafted and presented legislation, Senate Bill 188 (SB 188), that would create a new state-run lottery organization as a way to try to fill massive gaps in the budget. It would authorize the launch of lottery drawings and scratch-offs run by the state, as well as inclusion into certain multi-state lotteries, such as Mega Millions and Powerball. Included in the bill is a provision that would also bring legalized sports gambling to the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Dunleavy points out that Alaska is one of just five states that now do not offer some sort of lottery. He sees what could be possible to help make the state more self-sufficient by introducing a lottery, and possibly sports gambling, and explains, “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.”
By way of comparison, Alaska’s population is around 731,000 and Vermont has around 624,000 inhabitants, 107,000 fewer. According to the Green Mountain State, fiscal year 2018 saw lottery revenue of $132.41 million, of which $27.1 million went to the state’s Education Fund, and $87.4 million was taken home by players. Another $8.1 million was paid in the way of commissions and sales bonuses to agents who carried the lottery in their stores. Administrative costs were only $3.02 million.
Based on that return, Dunleavy’s estimates of between $5 million and $10 million each year from lottery and sports gambling seems to actually be low. With the additional approval of electronic lottery terminals sought by SB 188, the number could go much higher, and would facilitate lottery and sports gambling activity “through the use of any media, including electronic terminals, computers, and the internet.”
Dunleavy hasn’t always been the most popular governor, which might make it difficult for his bill to receive approval. He has explored cutting the budget of several high-profile programs, including education and public assistance, but, at some point, something has to give. If lawmakers cannot come up with a better solution to reverse the growing fiscal budget, without raising taxes, then lotteries and sports gambling is as good an alternative as any.