Alaska is not a place to gamble, let alone bet on sports. Since the territory became a state, the opportunities for wagering have been quite sparse. In an area that doesn’t even have a racetrack within its hundreds of thousands of square miles, it’s no surprise, then, that there are no real pushes to legalize sports betting in Alaska.
Obviously, in a gambling-averse state like Alaska, it’s not reasonable to expect that the legislature would have passed a sports betting law prior to the dissolution of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned sports betting at a federal level. So, any chances to allow sports betting in Alaska could only have come in the wake of the 2018 Supreme Court decision. If you’re in Alaska right now, you can probably guess what has happened, since there aren’t any sportsbooks down the street.
Nevertheless, there’s been some fairly recent activity surrounding sports betting in the Alaska Legislature, so the topic is not exactly out of mind with lawmakers in the Last Frontier. So, in the spirit of fair play and good faith, here is a guide to all things sports betting in Alaska. While we cannot report too many reasons for hope just yet, we are certainly monitoring the situation. When and if Alaska does move in the direction of legalizing sports betting, you’ll want to be able to return to this page, as we will have all the relevant details.
Is sports betting legal in Alaska?
No. As a general rule, all gambling is illegal in Alaska. According to Title 11 of the 2019 Alaska Statutes, the law about gambling is the following:
“A person commits the offense of gambling if the person engages in unlawful gambling.”
The statute goes on to define “unlawful” as any form of gambling not expressly permitted by law. Truthfully, the few forms of gambling allowed in the state are either charitable gaming or exceptions to the law carved out as defenses against prosecution. In other words, as a general rule, it’s against the law to play poker, but you can argue that you didn’t break the law if you were playing in a “social game.”
When will Alaska regulate sports betting?
It’s hard to say. The most recent attempt to legalize sports betting in Alaska came in 2020. Amazingly, the legislation sprang from a direct request from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who wanted to introduce a state lottery and have sports betting as part of it. The result was a pair of twin bills in the Alaska House of Representatives and Alaska Senate, HB246 and SB188, respectively. Though Dunleavy clearly identified the motivation behind the bills as a manner to stoke revenue for the state, neither measure made it beyond its respective chamber’s state affairs committee.
Sports betting has yet to be introduced in the Alaska Legislature since. Rep. Steve Thompson made a motion in 2021 to legalize the lottery sans sports betting, but he withdrew the proposal two months after its introduction. No other bills to expand gambling, sports betting or otherwise, have surfaced in Alaska since then.
There’s not much room for optimism about an imminent sports betting legalization and regulation in Alaska at this point. By the governor’s own admission, the key driver for gambling expansion, economic pressure, clearly exists in the state. However, lawmakers in the Last Frontier are apparently resolute in their convictions about gambling and unwilling to consider any kind of compromise, economics be damned. Sadly, it’s hard to imagine that sports betting might reemerge in Alaska unless things continue to decline at the state level.
Does Alaska have legal online sportsbooks?
No, not at all. There are no legal online sportsbooks available in Alaska at this time. Any sports betting site that accepts Alaskan players is based outside of the US and comes with a host of risks that go beyond the fact that you are almost certainly violating Alaska state law by playing on them.
These sites are not governed, managed, overseen, or regulated by any US entities with regard to their business practices. So, were you to have some sort of dispute or conflict with one of these sites, you might find yourself locked out and unable to find any kind of satisfactory resolution.
Site security is another issue. Your name, phone number, address, and Social Security number are commonly submitted to create your account. Worse, you have to connect the site with your bank account or a credit card in order to fund your account. Trying to get some help with identity theft and other fraud in the US is tough, but doable. Attempting to navigate the legal system in another country with unknown standards required by law is a nightmare, and since you don’t have to play on these sites, it is a completely avoidable one.
Bottom line: Don’t risk it. As frustrating as it is, we cannot recommend that you bet on sports online in Alaska at this time.
Can you play daily fantasy sports contests in Alaska?
Yes. You can play daily fantasy sports in Alaska. Most of the major companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, accept players from Alaska and allow them to take part in contests. However, you may rightly be wondering how such a thing is possible with Alaska’s long-standing tradition against gambling.
The reason that you can play DFS is a semantic reality that exists in many states, including Alaska. Specifically, there is no law in Alaska that mentions daily fantasy sports in either a permissive or prohibitive context. You are able to play with reputable companies based out of the US — it’s just that the state law is not explicit on the subject.
However, it is important that you be aware about how the state has opined on similar types of games in the past. Specifically, in a 2001 opinion, the Alaska attorney general stated that a pay-to-play golf video game (an unnamed game, which we can only assume is Golden Tee) constituted illegal gambling because it met three conditions of the definition of gambling as laid out by Alaska law:
“Staking or risking something of value, in other words, paying an entry fee or betting to obtain something of value, in other words, to win a prize; based on a game or contest in which the outcome is dependent to a material degree on chance, even if skill is also a factor; or a future contingent event not under the player’s control or influence.”
Now, so far, Alaska law enforcement has not elected to lean upon this opinion with regard to DFS in the past few decades. However, it’s important that DFS players in Alaska understand that the law is far from settled about playing on the sites.
Who will regulate Alaska sports betting?
It’s extremely hard to say, even hypothetically, which branch or agency in the Alaskan government would regulate sports betting in the Last Frontier. There are no clear bodies that we can guess would have jurisdiction due to the fact that legal gambling in Alaska is so scarce. Our best guess would be that the state would have to create an entirely new division or agency to manage the new industry.
If the few failed bills that have been proposed in Alaska are any clue about that, it seems most likely that a new Alaska Lottery Commission would be the regulator for sports betting. The governor-requested bills in 2020 included sports betting as a feature of the lottery proposal, so it would seem that at least some Alaskan lawmakers want to keep all the gambling together under one roof. Incidentally, the bills set the stage for both iLottery and online sports betting, so it’s clear that regulating the new industry would be a significant undertaking.
Now, with that said, the Tax Division of the Alaska Department of Revenue is the agency that oversees licensing and regulation for charitable gaming in Alaska, which is the only bit of gambling in the state. Although it would be an odd choice compared to the gaming commissions and lottery commissions in other states, there’s a possibility that a new sports betting industry would put the regulator hat there.
How old do I have to be to bet on sports in Alaska?
Alaska holds the distinction of having one of the most complicated answers to the question about the gambling age known to man. There are no fewer than three different ages of majority regarding the spare bits of gambling practiced in and around the state. So, in order to play bingo in Alaska, you must be 19 or older. In order to play pull-tab games or on Alaska-origin cruises, you need to be 21. The two lottery/sports betting bills from last year set their ages at 18, which would have put Alaska in a small group of states to allow teenagers to bet.
Of course, since both bills died in committee, it’s mostly moot. Whenever the next bill or proposal comes along, there’s no guarantee that the age for sports betting will be 18, 19, 21, or something else. So, for the time being, assume that you’ll need to be 18 at a minimum, and you’ll probably need to be older than that to legally bet on sports in Alaska.
Where to bet on sports in Alaska
Obviously, we don’t know exactly where or if retail sportsbooks would be a feature of sports betting in Alaska. Given the immense land area contained within the state lines, it is almost certain that sports betting would have to be available online and, thus, available anywhere there’s an internet connection in Alaska.
However, if you want to get a full experience in one of those sportsbooks that you see with the big lighted display boards, it’s a bit trickier to predict. Alaska also does not have any casinos or racetracks, which are the most common places for in-person betting. The only location that we can be fairly confident about is Anchorage. The largest city in the state contains a sizable portion of the state’s population and is the most obvious place for a sportsbook to be successful.
Other cities, like Juneau and Fairbanks, are probably too small to sustain much business for a retail sportsbook. It’s possible that you’d see a small shop open in those places (or in towns like Wasilla, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Kenai), but much less likely. The real value for sports betting in Alaska is online, which would mean that you would be able to bet anywhere as long as there’s an internet connection.
Online sportsbooks in Alaska
Without any kind of sports betting bill on the table, it’s impossible to know very much. Every state that has legalized sports betting has done so in its own way, and the number of sportsbooks allowed by each law is always different.
However, based upon their actions elsewhere, we can take some fairly confident guesses about which companies would be among the first to debut in Alaska. The following operators are likely to lead the pack:
The only possible monkey wrench in this prediction is if Alaska elected to run sports betting as a state-operated monopoly. Some states, like Oregon and Montana, have taken this approach, and it has not been terribly successful, to be honest. However, in a state where gambling is viewed with suspicion, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Alaskan lawmakers would want to keep a tighter-than-usual grip on any gambling expansions.
Do I have to be in Alaska to bet online?
Yes. No matter if, when, or how Alaska chooses to legalize sports betting, you will absolutely have to be inside state lines to bet online. This requirement is universal in every state in the union, so don’t feel as though Alaska is singled out. The mandate comes courtesy of the Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits the transmission of sports bets over electronic wires.
Though the law was originally designed to give law enforcement another weapon against organized crime, it remains the law of the land to this day. In fact, a recent ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals only served to affirm that the law applies specifically to sports betting. So, regardless of the form that online sports betting takes in Alaska, it will be confined to the Last Frontier’s land.
Geolocation and Alaska betting sites
Now, you may be wondering how the government would enforce such a rule. Well, the short answer is that you will have to verify your location through each sportsbook’s geolocation verification software. Geolocation verification software is a must-have for every online sportsbook in every single state, and there’s no reason to assume that Alaska would buck the trend. This type of software works with the onboard GPS on your mobile device to pinpoint your exact location on the planet. If you prefer to use a laptop or desktop to play, then you’ll be required to download the software to your computer and allow it to work.
This software is actually quite adept at its task. It can serve to create a virtual fence around almost any land area. Furthermore, most states insist that the sportsbooks set their software to err on the side of caution and disqualify those from playing who are even a few feet inside the state. If you cannot prove that you are inside Alaska, you won’t be allowed to bet — period.
How do I deposit money into an online sports betting account?
No matter where you decide to bet on sports online, you will need some money in your account first. Thankfully, every sportsbook has a vested interest in making that process as pain-free for you as it can. So, by visiting the site’s cashier, you will invariably find many different ways to make a deposit or move money around. You will often have more than one of the following choices:
- Credit/debit cards: Most books accept Visa or Mastercard. Other brands of card will vary. However, make sure to check with your bank before you use this method. Many banks refuse to allow deposits to gambling sites, and those that do are likely to charge steep cash advance fees.
- Electronic checks: These function exactly like paper checks, except without the paperwork. You authorize a debit on your bank account and the e-check passes through a clearinghouse. The whole process is often quite quick, however, with the deposit going through in a matter of minutes.
- Electronic wallets: Electronic wallets are sites like PayPal or Skrill. They serve as way stations for your online funds. If you are used to using these services already, they may be the easiest method to put money into your sportsbook account.
- Online banking: Many banks allow you to send money directly both to creditors and merchants online. This service is usually called “bill pay” or something similar. Well, in some cases, you can send a payment to your preferred sportsbook, too.
- Wire transfers: Wire transfers are a bit more old school, but function the same as online banking. For the most part, though, they are reserved for larger transactions, as there is a bit more to-do with them.
- Prepaid cards: Many sportsbooks have their own branded prepaid cards through services like Play+. Prepaid cards are exactly like gift cards and can be loaded the same way. It’s just a gift card you’re giving to yourself. Since they are directly branded and tied to the sportsbook itself, it is often the fastest way both to deposit and withdraw, since there is no qualification or verification necessary.
- PayNearMe: PayNearMe is a barcode-generating service that allows you to create a custom barcode with the deposit transaction coded within. Many retail stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores can scan, process, and complete your transaction. PayNearMe is a great option if you prefer to use cash for most of your financial interactions.
- Cash at a physical location: If Alaska happens to legalize both retail and online sports betting, there is a chance that you would be able to deposit into your online sportsbook account at the sportsbook location associated with your chosen brand. This option is not always available, but it can give you another way to use cash and still play online, if you like.
Several of these options are also available for withdrawals. The most common ways to pull money out of your sportsbook account are e-checks, paper checks, prepaid cards, and cash at the cage. However, be aware of the fact that withdrawal methods are often more limited than deposits.
What sports can I bet on in Alaska?
When and if sports betting comes to Alaska, residents and visitors in the Last Frontier should have access to betting on every major sport that comes to mind. In fact, due to Alaska’s relative remoteness from the rest of the United States, there might be more options and easier access to some more international games than on sportsbook apps in the Lower 48. However, rest assured that you will be able to place wagers on the following sports:
- Auto racing
- Australian Rules Football
- Mixed Martial Arts
The list above represents the minimum offering that you might see. Sportsbooks also commonly offer wagering on eSports, the Olympics, and less popular sports such as bowling, darts, and softball. There might even be some opportunities to bet on Alaska-specific events, like the Iditarod.
There are no professional sports teams in Alaska at this time. None of the four major leagues have any teams or affiliates in the state, and the biggest sports team presences are from college summer league baseball teams and, oddly enough, professional women’s roller derby. However, Alaska is home to the University of Alaska system, and the campuses in Anchorage and Fairbanks both maintain athletics teams that compete in the NCAA Division I, notably men’s ice hockey. So, it’s quite possible that you would be able to bet on the Seawolves or the Nanooks.
One thing to bear in mind, though, is that it is not uncommon for lawmakers to limit or disallow sports betting on in-state collegiate athletics events. Michigan sports betting, for example, allows in-state NCAA college bets, but prohibits prop bets on college players. With so few options in Alaska, we’d hope that the Alaska Legislature won’t limit college bets, but it is a possibility.
Wrapping up Alaska sports betting
Alaska has sports betting on its mind — somewhere. The fact that its governor directed the legislature to create two bills for its legalization in 2020 is significant, especially in light of the state’s historical resistance and reticence about gambling. It’s tempting to say that things are going to stay the same in Alaska. In terms of previous patterns, it probably will. Change is quite difficult to stomach, particularly if it’s a complete reversal of the status quo.
However, there’s always a chance. Even in the face of the 2018 Supreme Court decision that made sports betting a possibility in every state, industry observers thought that states like Tennessee and Virginia would never legalize sports betting in any fashion. They were wrong. Both of those states now have online sports betting. Now that sports betting has spread into areas like that, there’s no state in the country that is still completely negative in its outlook, except Utah. Alaskans who want sports betting should not be hopeful just yet, but don’t give up on it completely.