Is Playing Online Poker in Alaska Legal?

Alaska may be the largest state in the US, but due to its extreme climate as the northernmost state, it ranks 47th among the most populated, home to just 735,132 (est. 2013). When we think of Alaska, aka The Last Frontier, we think of frigid temperatures, lucrative oil and natural gas production, as well as a superfluous fishing industry. What doesn’t come to mind are the brilliant lights and affluent hotels that come with a vast gambling industry.

That’s not to say that Alaskans don’t enjoy tossing chips around the felt as much as the residents of any other US state, nor that online poker players aren’t still traversing the web to do so, but the legalities surrounding real money Texas Holdem have greatly suppressed the activity. This article will examine the laws of online poker in Alaska to determine whether or not it’s scripturally legal, illegal or somewhere in between.


Land-based Gambling in Alaska

Before delving into the context of a state’s online gambling laws, it’s generally a good idea to preview the climate of land-based gambling in the area. Alaska has no commercial casinos or card rooms to speak of. There are more than half a dozen tribal gambling establishments, but they can’t be defined as casinos or card rooms either, offering the bare minimum of pull tabs and/or electronic bingo games. There have been multiple attempts over the last decade to pass an Alaska Video Lottery Law, but each one has failed, leaving the state among a very short list of US jurisdictions that still don’t offer a state-run lottery.

Interestingly enough, card rooms were legalized in Alaska thanks to a bill introduced back in 2005, but due to heavy restrictions and lofty licensing fees – not to mention a very low population density – not a single commercial operator has bothered to build one.


Deciphering the Laws of Alaska as they relate to Online Poker

Since online poker is not specifically defined by the state laws of Alaska, I’ve compiled a list of all relative gambling laws that could be related to the topic. Legislative script isn’t the easiest thing to decipher, so I’ve also added a concise meaning for each notation. You are also welcome to browse the full text of Alaska’s Gambling Statues.


Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
11.66.200 Gambling (a) A person commits the offense of gambling if the person engages in unlawful gambling. Anyone who participates in gambling that is not authorized by the State of Alaska is committing a crime.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the defendant was a player in a social game. Social poker games are not considered Unlawful Gambling.
(c) Gambling is a violation for the first offense. Gambling is a class B misdemeanor for the second and each subsequent offense. The first violation for gambling gets a slap on the wrist, followed by up to 90 days in jail for all future offenses.
11.66.260 Possession of a Gambling Device (a) A person commits the offense of possession of a gambling device if, with knowledge of the character of the device, the person manufactures, sells, transports, places, or possesses, or conducts or negotiates a transaction affecting or designed to affect ownership, custody, or use of, a gambling device knowing that the device is used or is to be used in unlawful gambling. Possession of a gambling device could be construed to mean any person who knowingly conducts a transaction (i.e. wager, deposit or withdrawal) on a computer/mobile device for the purpose of unlawful gambling.
(b) It is an affirmative defense in a prosecution under this section that the gambling device possessed by the defendant was used or intended to be used only in a social game. If the online poker game does not profit the operator (i.e. there is no rake/tournament fee taken), it is not illegal to own.
(c) Possession of a gambling device is a class A misdemeanor. Sentence of up to one year in jail.


(1) “contest of chance” 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. All forms of gambling, including skill-based games like poker, are defined as a Contest of Chance.
(2) “gambling” means that a person stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance…upon an agreement or understanding that that person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome; “gambling” does not include… an activity authorized by the Department of Revenue under AS 05.15 Unless authorized by the state, participation in any poker game in which there is something of value to be lost is Gambling.
(3) “gambling device” means 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… The term Gambling Device could be interpreted to include a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device used to play online poker.
(6) “player” means 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…except…a person who gambles at a social game… Anyone who plays online poker for real money where a rake or tournament fee is collected is defined as a Player.
(9) “social game” means gambling in a home where no house player, house bank, or house odds exist and where there is no house income from the operation of the game Social games played in a person’s home where no one profits other than gambling winnings are legal in Alaska.
(11) “unlawful” means not specifically authorized by law Anything that isn’t specifically deemed legal is illegal by default.


Is Online Poker Illegal in Alaska?

Yes. Any form of gambling that is not specifically authorized and permitted by the state of Alaska is illegal by default. Since online poker has not been regulated or authorized by the state, it does fall into the category of unlawful gambling.


Is Alaska working to Legalize Online Poker?

No. The last time the issue of legalizing any form of poker arose was in 2005, and while card rooms were eventually authorized, no commercial brand has thought the industry profitable enough to bother establishing one. Regulated online poker in the US traditionally requires land-based operators to obtain licenses, and without interest from casino companies, there’s no reason to push for online poker regulation.


Online Poker Players in Alaska

Despite the truncated population of the state, there are a few well-known online poker players who hail from The Last Frontier. Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald was born in Kodiak, AK and has raked in over $2.9 million in online poker tournaments alone. The late Matt Roth grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and had a phenomenal start to his online poker career, but committed suicide in 2011 shortly after the events of Black Friday.


Land-Based Card Rooms in Alaska

There are currently 7 land-based gambling destinations in Alaska, but unfortunately none that possess poker tables. The only types of gaming available are Pull Tabs and/or Electronic Bingo, all operated by Native American tribes.


Atka Ira Council
Location: Atka, AK
Poker Room: No

Native Village Barrow Pull Tabs
Location: Barrow, AK
Poker Room: No

Tlingit and Haida Indian of CBJ Bingo
Location: Juno, AK
Poker Room: No

Organized Village of Kake Bingo
Location: Kake, AK
Poker Room: No

Klawock IRA Pull Tab Shoppe
Location: Klawock, AK
Poker Room: No

Metlakatla Indian Community Bingo
Location: Metlakatla, AK
Poker Room: No

Sitka Tribal Bingo
Location: Sitka, AK
Poker Room: No

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