The state of Alaska has never been very welcoming to gambling, and that frosty attitude has remained with sports betting. Online and retail sports betting are both illegal in AK, and it looks unlikely this will change any time soon.
However, betting enthusiasts point at evidence that attitudes are warming up towards betting as lawmakers have recognized the need to diversify state revenues away from the fossil fuel industry. The first attempt to legalize betting came in 2020 when the state’s Governor announced a package of legislation for a new state lottery that would include provisions to offer sports betting. A second bill followed this in 2022. Both failed but showed an interest in wagering to the Last Frontier.
Read our complete guide to Alaska sports betting to discover the history of gambling, the latest legislation, and what sports will be popular for betting.
Alaska has traditionally been conservative regarding sports betting legislation and the state outlaws gambling. With a low population and a large land mass, the population is scattered except for hubs in Anchorage and Fairbanks. These geographic issues mean that the interest in opening land-based casinos has been low, hampering lawmakers’ enthusiasm to legalize any form of gambling.
Alaska also has traditionally been financially secure due to the oil industry, removing the need for revenue at the state level that has usually encouraged the launch of casinos in other states. Its financial position changed after the 2008 Financial Crisis. With oil prices beginning to tumble, the state has looked for ways to diversify its revenues, including legal gambling.
The first sign of this came in February 2020, when Governor Mike Dunleavy introduced bills to the House and Senate to create a state lottery to boost revenues. Within the bill, Dunleavy included provisions for sports betting. The Covid-19 pandemic quickly put this effort on the back burner, but a renewed effort will likely emerge given the financial hit caused by the pandemic.
A second bill arrived in February 2022 when Representative Adam Wood proposed legalizing sports betting with provisions for taxing it and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) revenues, but it once again failed. With the sports betting landscape changing nationwide, lawmakers in Alaska may consider using sports betting and other forms of gambling to increase revenues to the state treasury.
Alaskans are sports-mad despite having no major league teams. The icy landscape makes the state a perfect hotbed for ice hockey, and the state’s two collegiate ice hockey programs have storied histories and large fan bases.
AK fans also like to support major league teams in the surrounding area. The state would likely have lots of interest in betting on the NHL and NCAA men’s ice hockey season should legal sports betting launch. See below for our overview of the potential most popular sports for bettors in Alaska.
While there are few direct ties from Alaska to the NFL, three-time Super Bowl winner with the Washington Commanders and Denver Broncos Mark Schlereth was born in AK. Even without major links, there will still be plenty of betting fans if sports betting is legalized. You’ll be able to bet on every NFL game, including pre-season, regular-season, and post-season games. If top sportsbooks launch in AK, many bettors will be able to claim exclusive promotions for big games like the Super Bowl.
Baseball is America’s favorite pastime for a reason, and even in Alaska, the sport has plenty of fans. Top baseball players like three-time World Series winner Curt Schilling have come from Alaska to the world’s biggest baseball league.
Any sportsbooks that launch in Alaska will provide markets for the MLB, with futures available on teams to win the World Series and players to win the MVP.
There are lots of basketball fans in Alaska, and the state even had multiple teams in the American Basketball Association, like the Alaska Dream and Alaska Quake. However, sports bettors will be happy to see many NBA markets if sports betting is legalized. You’ll be able to bet pre-game and in-play on every NBA game, as well as place player or team props.
As you might expect, the most northern state in the Union is nuts about ice hockey. While no NHL team calls Alaska home, the state is home to many die-hard hockey fans thanks to the presence of its college ice hockey programs at the University of Alaska’s Fairbanks and Anchorage campuses.
Fans in AK usually follow the two nearest teams to Alaska, the Vancouver Canucks and the newly created Seattle Kraken. Alaska has produced NHL players like Scott Gomez, Brandon Dubinsky, and Pheonix Copley, who helped put the Last Frontier on the NHL map.
If legal sportsbooks launch in Alaska, ice hockey fans will be able to bet on markets like puck lines, totals, and futures, like Canucks or the Kraken winning the Stanley Cup.
Alaska’s two most popular sports teams are its college ice hockey teams, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (Alaska) Nanooks and the University of Alaska-Anchorage (Alaska-Anchorage) Seawolves.
Due to the geographical distance between the two schools and the rest of college ice hockey, the Nanooks and Seawolves are NCAA Division I Independents. The season's highlight is the Governor’s Cup, played between the two schools three times a year.
Should legal sports betting come to AK, it is still undetermined whether bettors would be able to wager on collegiate sports, as some states have restrictions on in-state college games. In addition, there may be restrictions on certain bet types, like player props. Despite this, if it were legal, Governor’s Cup games between the two schools would likely have the highest handle of any event in the state.
While Alaska isn’t home to any major league teams, the state has a rich culture represented in its sporting events. These include an in-state collegiate ice hockey rivalry, the world’s top Eskimo sporting event, and an in-state MMA championship. See below for more information on Alaskan sporting events.
Meetings between the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (Alaska) Nanooks and the University of Alaska-Anchorage (Alaska-Anchorage) Seawolves are the most high-profile sporting events in the Last Frontier. The rivalry is relatively recent, with the first meeting occurring in November 1980.
The Nanooks were the first of the two schools to play collegiate ice hockey, founding a team in 1925. Despite this, due to its geographical distance from other schools, it could not build a coherent schedule and suspended its program several times over the next 50 years.
In 1979, the Seawolves promoted its ice hockey team to varsity status. Having a rival and a source of regular fixtures, the Nanooks followed suit in 1980. The two teams met twelve times in the first two years of the respective programs, and the rivalry was born.
The schools were promoted to Division I status in 1984 and joined the Great West Hockey Conference in 1985, with teams from the lower 48 states. The experiment lasted three years but gave both programs more national precedence. Alaska Anchorage eventually joined the West Coast Hockey Association (WCHA) in 1993. In response, the Governor’s Cup, the current trophy for the series winner of the matchup, began to be awarded to continue the rivalry.
Since the turn of the century, the two schools’ programs have struggled, and there were rumors that both would merge to form a single ice hockey team. During the Covid-19 pandemic, both schools faced a financial crisis, and Alaska Anchorage announced that 2020/21 would be its last season on the ice. A fundraising campaign, with contributions from Nanooks supporters, was launched. The Seawolves announced its return for the 2022/23 season, preserving the future of the rivalry for now.
The World Eskimo Indian Olympics (WEIO) is an annual multi-sport event held over four days each July. The event is designed to preserve the cultural practices of Inuit, Iñupiat, Yupik, and Native American communities and advance circumpolar areas worldwide.
It was founded in 1961 and was initially held in downtown Fairbanks along with the Golden Days festivities. The event remained in Fairbanks until 2007, when Anchorage led a successful bid to host the event. The 2007 event would be the only one that would take place in Anchorage, with organizers deeming the cost too high. Fairbanks is now recognized as the WEIO’s permanent home.
Events at the WEIO include Knuckle Hop, Ear Pull, Nalukataq, Stick Pull, One Hand Reach, and Greased Pole Walks.
The Alaska Fighting Championship (AFC) was founded in 2004 and is a mixed martial arts competition held regularly in AK. AFC 1 was held in July 2004 and saw veterans from the UFC, Jeremy Horn and Rich Franklin, participate. Franklin beat Ralph Dilon in 56 seconds through submission, while Horn hit a TKO by the knee on Kyle Seals.
The competition has gone from strength to strength since this first fight night, with more than 160 AFC fights held. Many UFC fighters have started their careers with the AFC, including Uros Medic, Jared, Cannonier, and Lauren Murphy. Murphy was born in Alaska and won the AFC featherweight title. She also claimed a championship in Alaska Cage Fighting.
Most AFC events are hosted at the Alaska Airlines Center, which has a capacity of 5,000. You can watch AFC fights on the UFC Fight Pass.
There have been a couple of attempts to legalize sports betting in Alaska, including by the state’s Governor. Currently, the legalization of sports betting is unlikely, but it isn’t entirely impossible.
In February 2020, Governor Mike Dunleavy made the first genuine attempt at legalization, including sports betting in legislation creating a new state lottery. Two years later, Representative Adam Wool introduced a bill to legalize and regulate sports betting. While both bills were unsuccessful, interest in Alaska sports betting remains.
No, horse racing betting is not legal in Alaska. You cannot place pari-mutuel wagers on horse races or simulcasts. Likewise, you can’t use an advance deposit wagering site, like TVG or TwinSpires, to bet on races in AK or across the world.
No, you cannot bet on your phone in Alaska. Alaskan lawmakers have yet to pass any legislation to make online sports betting legal, so this practice is still prohibited. However, given the low population and vast size of AK, an online sports betting market is likely if mobile wagering is legalized.
Due to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) exemption, games of skill, including Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), do not amount to unlawful gambling in the US. This means sites like FanDuel and DraftKings can offer DFS games in Alaska.
There are no sports you can bet on legally in Alaska because sports betting has not been legalized. In addition to sports betting, you are also prohibited from placing bets on horse racing. However, you can play Daily Fantasy Sports with operators like DraftKings and FanDuel.
Alaska has never legalized gambling because, unlike other US states, it has never needed the additional revenues that come with a wagering industry. The AK oil industry provides loads of finances, and the state hasn’t required the extra income other states have sought through legal gambling.
AK has also been traditionally conservative regarding gambling. For example, there are no land-based or tribal casinos in Alaska. However, this is changing, and renewed efforts to legalize sports betting are expected in legislative sessions after attempts in 2020 and 2022.
Yes, it is illegal to use offshore sportsbooks in Alaska. All US states must pass legislation to allow sports betting and only allow sportsbooks licensed by a regulatory body. The closest state with legal sports betting to AK is Washington.
Given that Alaska is vast and has a low population density, an online-exclusive market is undoubtedly the best route for sports betting legalization. Lawmakers have made two attempts to legalize sports betting, including AK’s Governor. These attempts have focused on legalizing online sports betting, so should it be legalized, it is highly likely that bettors in Alaska will be able to bet online.
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