Alaska - The State House has voted to legalize card
rooms where gamblers can wager against one another on
poker and other games.
23-16 vote came about 10 p.m. Wednesday, as the Legislature
worked late to wrap on its business before the adjournment
for the year in six days.
card room bill, House Bill 272, must clear the Senate
before it becomes a law. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman
Ralph Seekins plans a hearing on it today but said he
was unsure whether it would make it out of his committee.
There is more opposition to expanding gambling in the
Senate than the House.
the bill has hurtled through the Legislature so far since
being introduced less than a month ago. Anchorage poker
legend Perry Green, a semi-retired furrier and landlord,
is pushing it with lobbyists Ashley Reed and Joe Hayes,
whom Green has contracted to pay $50,000 each for their
help, according to required filings with the Alaska Public
has said he plans to open a card room in Anchorage with
about 20 tables should the idea clear state and local
version of the bill the House passed Wednesday night requires
local governments to also pass an ordinance -- ratified
by the majority of local voters -- before any card rooms
would be allowed to open within a municipality.
sponsor Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, said the proposal is
for tightly regulated businesses where people can enjoy
themselves and wager on cards.
said poker is booming in popularity and questioned claims
it would lead to social ills.
would submit the game of golf is more addictive,"
Woodie Salmon, D-Beaver, said "little old ladies"
have their bingo halls, and there ought to be card rooms
for "little old men" to be able to wager.
to liquor stores and bars and drugs I think this is a
very good habit," Salmon said on the House floor.
"You don't see little old men coming back from a
poker game and running off the road."
amendment to allow card rooms in towns of less than 30,000
narrowly failed, though. The billy only allows the sate
to issue card room licenses in boroughs with more than
30,000 people, which in Alaska means Anchorage, Fairbanks,
Kenai, Matanuska-Susitna and Juneau. Just one card room
would be allowed per 30,000 residents, for a potential
maximum of nine in Anchorage and 15 statewide.
Jim Elkins, R-Ketchikan, agreed with Salmon the restriction
wasn't fair. Small towns like Ketchikan, Sitka and Petersburg
might want card rooms too, he said.
shouldn't have to be second-class citizens and not be
allowed to play poker like people in the big city,"
said he was worried about having too many card rooms in
the state. But he said after the vote he might reconsider
and open it up to smaller towns when the bill comes back
before the House for the formality of reconsideration.
of the bill said the state shouldn't support something
so destructive as gambling and feared it would open the
door to proposals to go further in the future into casinos,
video poker and other forms of gambling.
is not about good clean fun," said Rep. Harry Crawford,
D-Anchorage. "It's about greed."
bill would have the governor appoint a five-member "card
room advisory board" that would advise the Department
of Revenue. The department would decide who could get
a license to operate one of the businesses. The revenue
department would also set the maximum and minimum wagers
on the games and how much the card room owners could charge
players. The players would wager against one another,
rather than the house, which means games like blackjack
would not be allowed.
bill permits poker, bridge, pan, rummy and cribbage.
bill doesn't set a limit on the number of tables in the
card room. But the owner would have to pay a $10,000 per-table
annual license fee to the state, on top of a $25,000 application
other states have card rooms, according to the Department
of Revenue, including California, Washington, Michigan