Gov. Mike Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced his state lottery bill in the Legislature Wednesday, Feb. 12. The governor had proposed the idea in his annual State of the State speech as a way to bring modest new revenues to the treasury, with abut $5 million to $10 million in net income to the state estimated.

“Alaska is one of only five states that does not have any form of a state lottery. I believe it is time we, as a state, have the conversation on the potential benefits that could come from a state lottery,” the governor said.

“Not only does this legislation have the potential of creating new business opportunities, the profits generated from lottery activities will be designated to K-12 education, domestic violence prevention programs, drug abuse prevention programs, foster care, and homelessness,” Dunleavy said in a statement.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, beat the governor to the punch by earlier introducing his own version of a state lottery, in House Bill 239. The bill was introduced Feb. 5. Thompson’s bill would set up an Alaska State Lottery Board within the Department of Revenue do organization and provide for operation.

Sales of tickets would be contracted through retail agents. Thompson’s bill would provide that any winner of a prize of $500,000 or more could request confidentiality. However, a state lottery could adverse affect existing charitable gaming activities such as bingo, pull-tabs and raffles that support nonprofits.

The governor’s bill, in Senate Bill 188 and House Bill 246, would create the Alaska Lottery Corporation as a new State-owned corporation within the Department of Revenue. The corporation would be governed by a seven-member Board appointed by the Governor. It would organize, operate, and regulate in-state and multi-state draw games, instant tickets, sports betting, and keno.

An Alaska lottery might not have a huge jackpot but having it authorized by the Legislature will allow Alaskans to participate in big multistate lotteries like Powerball, which can have very big cash prizes. Powerball is known for its massive jackpots, which in the past have reached $1.5 billion. Because it works across several states Powerball has become a de facto national lottery.

“In order to participate in Powerball or other multi-state such as Mega Millions, states must establish a state lottery,” Tim Spengler, an analyst with Legislative Research Division, wrote in a 2016 briefing paper. Almost all states authorizing a lottery have chosen to operate their own state lottery as well as allow citizens to participate in multi-state lotteries, which provide revenue for a variety of purposes, for K-12 education, environmental improvements, senior citizen benefits, scholarships and property tax relief, he wrote.

Lotteries are also an old idea long-established in the nation. “Lotteries in the United States date back to the beginnings of our country. From funding some of the first ships bound for Jamestown, to providing support for the construction of public buildings, roads and canals, lotteries were a critical tool for the growth and development of the original 13 colonies,” Thompson said.

In another development Wednesday Sen. Mike Shower, R-MatSu, introduced a proposed state constitutional amendment in Senate Joint Resolution 17 as well as a bill, Senate Bill 187, that would ban the practice of a legislative caucus, or group, imposing a binding obligation on members to support a budget or particular legislation. As practiced now in the Legislature the Binding Caucus Rule can disenfranchise voters in a district represented by a lawmaker who is disciplined and loses committee assignments and staff for not voting a certain way.

“The Binding Caucus Rule has existed for many years in the Alaska Legislature. It is typically used to require a binding vote on operating and capital budget bills and ‘procedural’ votes, like controlling the flow of bills to the floor of the House or Senate as well as other non-policy issues,” Shower said in a briefing for reporters.

“However, the rule has “morphed” well beyond its original intent and is now used to force votes on policy issues, “well beyond a simple budget adjournment issue,” he said.

Shower and Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Mat-Su, along with Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, lost positions as chairs of major committees in the Senate on Jan. 21, at the start of the 2020 session, in retaliation for votes last spring, in the 2019 session, that were against the positions endorsed by the Senate Majority. They also lost staff, which undercut their ability to serve constituents.

Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Mat-Su, who attended the briefing, said the effect of the retaliatory action was to diminish representation, because of reduced resources, to 70,000 Mat-Su residents who live in districts represented by Hughes and Shower.

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