Assembly considers betting on gambling

Posted: Monday, February 16, 2004

Their cards should be on the table Tuesday when members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly vote on a resolution supporting state legislation that would legalize a new form of gambling in Alaska.

Resolution 2003-094 supports House Bill 240 (committee substitute), which would establish a statewide lottery and amend state law concerning aspects of electronic gaming, and Senate Bill 186, which would legalize the use of electronic gaming machines in Alaska.

Nikiski assembly member Gary Superman first introduced the resolution in August of last year. At that time, he acknowledged that, as an owner of a licensed bar, he could become a vendor of electronic gaming machines and sought a ruling on whether he had a conflict of interest. Assembly President Pete Sprague of Soldotna ruled that he did not.

The measure was postponed until Sept. 2, at which time action was again delayed until February after a majority expressed a desire to wait until the Legislature was in session to avoid going on the record in support of a bill whose language could change once it was coursing through legislative committee discussions.

The resolution notes the borough's support for a balanced long-range state revenue and spending plan, but also said such a plan must address the continuing loss of revenue to municipalities that once came from state appropriations.

Electronic gaming legislation could provide a new stream of revenue to the state, licensees and charities of from $50 million to $80 million each. Municipalities would get a 10 percent share of the annual statewide revenue, which for the borough would mean between $2 million and $3 million a year, the resolution said.

Opponents have argued that the gaming already allowed under state law has had negative impacts on some players and their families. Assembly member Milli Martin, of Homer, has expressed deep concerns about the potential impacts of adding still another inducement to gamble to the state's list of sanctioned gambling activities raffles, pull-tab and bingo.

The assembly also is expected to consider Resolution 2004-021, which supports subdivision of 867 acres of land in the Point Possession Area into approximately 70 lots. It would extend a 300-foot-long utility corridor already established at Gray Cliff and Moose Point subdivisions to the new area, and direct the borough Planning Department to establish a local-option zoning district in the area.

Resolution 2004-024, meanwhile, supports the concept of a statewide, broad-based self-assessment in the visitor industry to fund tourism marketing, which would include marketing for the Kenai Peninsula. The resolution calls for a percentage of the assessment to be distributed among qualified marketing organizations such as the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council.

Mayor Dale Bagley said in a memo to the assembly that the borough should support the concept as long as key points were included in any state legislation. These were that the Kenai Peninsula be recognized as a separate marketing region within the statewide marketing effort, that percentages guaranteed to go to regional marketing efforts be based on amounts contributed from each region, and that there be a five-year sunset clause in the law.

Senate Bill 240, currently in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, is aimed at establishing the assessment on certain tourism-related activities.

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