Alaska Legal Poker

Last Update: March 20, 2015

Online Poker

As mentioned above, Alaska’s gambling laws are set up such that any form of gambling that it not specifically authorized by law is unlawful. Poker is not specifically authorized by law, in either a live form or an online form.

There is no question that online poker operators cannot set up shop in Alaska under the current laws. They would be guilty of violating several statutes.

As to players, as there is no statute specifically dealing with online poker, there’s a legitimate question as to whether online play (for purposes of Alaskan gambling law) takes place in Alaska or in the jurisdiction in which the online poker operator’s computer servers are located. If the latter, then the play of online poker from Alaska would not currently be prohibited by law. If the former, then it is.

Live Poker

Alaska’s live poker laws are restrictive. By statute, all gambling is illegal unless it is specifically authorized by law. Alaska’s definition of gambling is identical to that of New York. The elements include risking something of value upon a contest of chance in exchange for a prize upon a certain outcome. Given this definition, Alaska would seem to be an ideal candidate state for the Dominant Factor test, which measure whether skill or luck is the dominant factor in deciding whether an activity is gambling.

Don’t get confused. Although the definition of gambling found at found at Alaska Statutes Section 11.66.280(2) contains an explicit carve-out (by reference to AS 05.15) for contests of skill, that term has a very narrow definition. It only applies to “the demonstration of human skills in marksmanship, races, and other athletic events.”

Still, that doesn’t imply that poker is necessarily a contest of chance for purposes of Alaska’s gambling laws. The Dominant Factor test might be applied to find that it is not, although to our knowledge no such case has ever been decided. As a result and as a matter of policy, then, live poker is considered illegal in Alaska for now.

An attempt to legalize card rooms died in committee in 2006. There is also no tribal poker in Alaska. Tribal gaming operations are limited to two bingo halls.

One positive side of live poker in Alaska is that home games are permissible. Alaska Statues Section 11.66.200(b) exempts “social games” from the offense of gambling under the law. Section 11.66.280 defines social game quite broadly, requiring only that the game take place “in a home” where there is no “house player” or house income from the operation of the game.

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