Alaska Poker Laws

one-way-640x420Alaska’s poker laws look very similar to the laws of several other states, and in fact the definition of gambling in Alaska has been taken almost word for word from what is used as a definition in a number of other states.

One of the issues that has come up in some states is whether or not the element of skill in poker makes it enough of a game of chance to qualify as a game of chance under the law, and if the law merely states that games of chance constitute gambling, some will argue that poker does not fit this.

So there’s two ways that states, including Alaska, have sought to clarify this so that poker would be included, and the first is the provision that the outcome must depend materially on chance, meaning that chance influences the result. The second is the provision that even though there may be an element of skill involved, this does not disqualify the game from being seen as involving gambling.

Let’s start by how Alaska defines a “contest of chance:”

“(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.” (1)

So poker would clearly be a contest of chance. Now, let’s look at their definition of gambling:

“(2) “gambling” means 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; “gambling” does not include

(A) bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts for the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities and agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance, including contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health, or accident insurance;
(B) playing an amusement device that
(i) confers only an immediate right of replay not exchangeable for something of value other than the privilege of immediate replay; and
(ii) does not contain a method or device by which the privilege of immediate replay may be cancelled or revoked; or
(C) an activity authorized by the Department of Revenue under AS 05.15.” (2)

So given that poker is a contest of chance, and that gambling involves betting on contests of chance, placing bets at a poker game would then constitute gambling under Alaska law.


Gambling Law In Alaska

Now it’s time to turn to the actual law here as it pertains to gambling:

“(a) A person commits the offense of gambling if the person engages in unlawful gambling.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the defendant was a player in a social game.
(c) Gambling is a violation for the first offense. Gambling is a class B misdemeanor for the second and each subsequent offense.” (3)

This might leave us wondering what unlawful gambling is, but they do cover this in the definitions under this section, meaning “not specifically authorized by law.” (4)

The exclusion of social games does make things interesting, and once again we turn to the definitions in this section which hold it as “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.” (5)

So players are free to play in their homes with other players provided that there is no profit derived other than the players’ individual winnings from the wagering. While there is no definition provided for “house,” it can be reasonably thought to include any third party operator, including offshore poker sites, even though they are not located in the state of Alaska or even the United States.

So in spite of not specifically addressing online poker, this once again doesn’t save online poker from being included in definitions of gambling for the purposes of state law.

So while social gambling is permitted, online gambling would not fit the definition, and since we concluded that poker is indeed gambling, and all gambling that is not specifically authorized by law is illegal, and online poker is not specifically authorized by law, then online poker is illegal in Alaska.


Playing Online Poker In Alaska

Aside from playing with your friends, or at any non commercial gambling game held in private homes, which does not require any prior social relationship between the parties by the way, there are no other options for live poker in the state of Alaska. The closest live poker room is in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. (6)

There are no current plans on regulating online poker or online gambling in Alaska at this time. In 2008, Alaska voters voted against expanding current gambling laws, and it is a fairly conservative state in that way. However, this does not mean that it will not happen, although given the small population base of the state, the focus seems to be more toward their joining other states in a compact.

In spite of the fact that gambling in Alaska is against state law, no one is being prosecuted for this and while some Alaskans may be reluctant to risk running afoul of the law here, many players simply just ignore this as a law not being enforced and participate in online poker anyway.

Luckily, if you are up for a game and live in Alaska, none of the online poker sites that accept Americans generally have any problem at all with allowing Alaskans to play online poker at their sites, so if you wish to play online poker in Alaska, nothing is stopping you really.

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(1) Alaska Statutes, 11.66.280, Definitions

(2) ibid.

(3) Alaska Statutes, 1.66.200, Gambling

(4) Alaska Statutes 11.66.280, Definitions

(5) ibid.

(6) All Live And Online Poker Rooms In Alaska

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