Alaska Gaming Commission, Measure 1 (August 2008)

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

If it had passed, it would have established a seven-member board of commissioners who would have been appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature to five year terms. The commission would have authorized and regulated gambling facilities.[1][2]

Election results

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

Results from Project Vote Smart.[1]

Text of the measure

Ballot question

This initiative would create a seven-member gaming commission in the state Department of Revenue, and change gaming laws. The commission would employ a director, make contracts, adopt regulations, investigate and enforce gaming laws. The commission would have authority to allow games of chance, such as lotteries and casino games, in the future. It could join other states in multi-state gaming. The director would supervise gaming activities, and enforce charitable gaming laws. The initiative would make certain acts related to gaming a felony. Gaming allowed by the new law would be exempted from the criminal prohibition against gambling.

Should this initiative become law?[1][3]


The logo of Darwin's Theory, the bar owned by the chief supporter, organizer and donor in favor of Measure 1

The official committee in favor of Measure 1 was called Alaskans for Gaming Reform and was organized and led by Darwin Biwer, owner of the Anchorage bar Darwin's Theory.[2]

Arguments in favor

Supporters argued that the commission would provide for reform and regulation of gaming in Alaska. Most supporters argued that, although the measure would allow for expansion of gambling, that was not the intent of the measure.[4][2]

Biwer said, "This is 'Alaskans for Gaming Reform,' not 'Alaskans for Gaming Casinos.' The gaming commission would have the authority to administer, monitor, authorize and enforce all gaming activities. Right now, there is no enforcement."[2]

Rep. Tom Anderson (R-Anchorage), the head of the legislative task force that ultimately suggested that it would be a bad idea to have a gaming commission, disagreed with the final task force recommendation and said that "pervasive fallacies exist about the status and future of gaming in Alaska." He argued that creating a new commission did not equate to endorsing or allowing the expansion of gaming, as the task force had concluded.[2]

Campaign finance

Alaskans for Gaming Reform collected a total of $109,234 dollars in support of Measure 1.[5]

The largest donors were:[5]

Donor Amount
Alaska Cabaret Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association $28,337
Darwin's Theory, Biwer's bar $25,000
Darwin Biwer, owner of Darwin's Theory $20,577

Follow the Money provided the following information regarding the campaign finance for Measure 1:[5]

Darwin A. Biwer, Jr., chair of the committee, owner of Darwin's Theory, and "the world's biggest seller of Cinnamon Schnapps," gave a total of $45,577, or 41 percent of the committee's total. Bars as a group gave a total of $44,750, or 40 percent of the total.[3]



There was no official committee registered in opposition to Measure 1. A legislative task force, however, consisting of lawmakers and citizens, recommended that establishing a gaming commission was a bad idea for the state because it presented an opportunity to expand gaming in Alaska. The head of the task force, Rep. Tom Anderson (R-Anchorage), disagreed with the final task force recommendation.[2] The Alaska Family Council and Eagle Forum were also opponents.[6]

Arguments against

Opponents argued that the measure was simply a way to expand gambling masquerading as a reform and law enforcement measure. Many simply called for supporters to be straight forward and let the voters decide, while others strongly advocated a "no" vote for fear of harmful effects of expanded gambling.[2][4]

Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council, said to Scott Christiansen of the Anchorage Daily News that the proponents were not being honest about the initiative. "What they've done is snuck a 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."[6]


The Anchorage Daily News featured an editorial about Measure 1, which criticized supporters, including Darwin Biwer, who were trying to "pass this measure off" as gambling reform or law enforcement. The article claimed:[4]

Alaskans will figure out in a hurry that this initiative is about one thing and one thing only: expansion of gambling in Alaska. Video gambling, casino gambling, poker tables and anything that fetches a sure buck for the house and maybe seduces those inclined to bet.

Please, let's not try to pass this off as reform or better law enforcement. Sell it for what it is, a call to Alaskans to place their bets in more venues with more games, with those in the bar and entertainment business ready to profit.[3]

Although the official position of the editorial in the Anchorage Daily News was to simply let the voters decide and the article did not argue for either a "yes" or "no" vote, the author did write that the level of gambling that existed seemed like the right amount, saying:[4]

Alaska has a reasonable level of gambling now, one that is manageable within current charitable gaming laws and carries much less negative baggage than the social ills that come with full-blown gaming. If Alaskans want more, they'll say so. But let's be clear that a vote for this commission is a straight shot to more state-sanctioned gambling in Alaska.[3]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Alaska
Campaign cash Invest.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $109,234
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $0
Total: $109,234[5]

Biwer's Committee, Alaskans for Gaming Reform, turned in 50,405 signatures. He said, "It took a year and $100,000, but we jumped through all the hoops." The Alaska Elections office required 31,451 valid signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot.[2]

Similar measures

See also

Suggest a link

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Project Vote Smart, "Alaska Ballot Measure 1, 2008," accessed January 21, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Juneau Empire, "Gaming commission initiative sponsors turn in signatures," September 12, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Juneau Empire, Anchorage Daily News editorial, "Alaska editorial: Initiative is an attempt to expand gambling," September 22, 2006
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Follow the Money, "Alaska 2008 Primary, Measure 1, accessed January 21, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Anchorage Daily News article published in 2008 and written by Scott Christiansen. A copy is not longer available only but the original was emailed to Ballotpedia staff in January 2014.