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Alaska Gaming Commission, Measure 1 (August 2008)

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The Alaska Gaming Commission or Measure 1 was on the statewide August 26 ballot in Alaska as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated.

If it had passed, it would have established a five-member board of commissioners who are to be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Legislature to 5 year terms. The commission would have authorized and regulating gambling facilities.

Election results

Alaska Gaming Commission, Measure 1
Defeatedd No116,67061.4%
Yes 73,463 38.6%

Results from Anchorage Daily News.[1]


Alaska has a history of shutting doors on gambling. In 1995 the Alaska Legislature put a stop to the once popular Monte Carlo nights, short-term events where players would purchase chips to play casino-style games. Not-for-profit organizations would take in cash. Players won donated prizes rather than cash. Lawmakers were afraid of casinos opening on Alaska Native land, so they nixed Monte Carlo nights, legal games that looked a lot like exchanging tickets for children’s prizes at Chuck E. Cheese, the pizza parlor where games pay out in tickets.

“They took away our Monte Carlo nights and that was the biggest fundraiser for Fur Rendezvous,” Biwer said. And he doesn’t think the fear of Monte Carlo nights leading to Native casinos was realistic. “It wouldn’t, but they didn’t do their research.”

But the Legislature has expanded gaming, albeit in piecemeal steps. By Biwer’s count, Alaska has 17 types of legalized gambling. Every two years or so, the Legislature has added new games, sometimes granting exclusive rights to a sole nonprofit operator.

The state fair’s Cabbage Classic is the newest, and the only entity allowed to operate a guessing game using vegetables is the Palmer Rotary Club. The Legislature voted to give the Palmer-based club that exclusive right in March. Governor Sarah Palin allowed the bill to become law without her signature. The Nenana Ice Classic began with a 1917, but also had to be enshrined by the Legislatrure. This year’s Nenana jackpot was $303,895, and had a lone winner who didn’t split the pot with anyone else.


Measure 1 was supported by the bar and restaurant industry trade group, CHARR. The group collected over 50,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

The commission, said Measure One booster Darwin Biwer, is “not going to do anything radical. They’re going to do the will of the people. Not the will of the Legislature, and not the will of any one single committee chairman.”

Biwer, owner of Darwin’s Theory -- a bar in downtown Anchorage -- wasn’t happy with the current state of gaming in Alaska. The seven-member commission would be appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the state legislature. That’s a strong check on the commission’s power, Biwer says.


Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council, and Debbie Joslin of Eagle Forum-Alaska, signed the official ballot argument opposing Measure 1.

Minnery said any legal gambling is too much; the state shouldn’t be involved in gambling because of its social costs. Minnery also said that its proponents weren't being honest.

“What they’ve done is snuck in the Trojan horse. They have not been very vocal about that. They are cloaking this initiative in the issue of enhanced enforcement. When you read the statute, it says very specifically that the commission may authorize any future form of gaming."

Some members of the Alaska State Legislature also opposed the initiative and made an effort that ultimately went nowhere to put a rival ballot measure, the Alaska Gaming Amendment on the ballot. This would have required a public vote before any for-profit gambling establishment could open in the state.

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