JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill introduced in the House on Friday would establish a statewide lottery to help close the state's fiscal gap.
House Speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, said such a proposal could raise millions for the state at a time when Alaska needs money.
Past proposals to create a state lottery or expand gaming in Alaska ran aground in previous sessions, but Kott said the idea warrants another look.
''It's one of those tools that we have looked at in the past, but we haven't looked at it as serious as I believe we are going to be looking at it this time around,'' Kott said.
House Bill 240 would create an Alaska State Lottery Commission to conduct two lottery drawings each year. The proceeds raised from lottery ticket sales would be split 50-50 between the winner and the state.
It was not immediately clear how much money would be raised by a statewide lottery. But past arguments against a state lottery have often cited the state's relatively small population as an impediment to having a successful lottery.
Kott said the landscape of the argument has changed and the growth in the state's visitor industry has also risen dramatically. He suggested lottery sales could be extended to the cruise ships and state ferries.
''If we can market it to the tourists ... we can generate some income that we can use to close the fiscal gap,'' Kott said.
About 1.2 million tourists visited Alaska last summer, the same number as the summer before, according to a survey from the Alaska Travel Industry Association. About 720,000 were cruise ship passengers.
Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, introduced a measure to establish a state lottery during the 1999 legislative session, but it never advanced to a floor vote. Kott sponsored an electronic gaming bill eight years ago that also was not successful, he said.
The Legislature and Gov. Frank Murkowski have been considering new revenue sources this year in an effort to balance the state budget and preserve Alaska's $1.9 billion budget reserve account.
Murkowski proposed a series of tax and fee measures that would raise about $113 million for state coffers and reduce the draw on the budget reserve to only $393 million. Murkowski budget officials forecast that the reserve account -- which has balanced state spending in every year but two since it was created in 1990 -- will be drained in the next three years.
House members are contemplating Murkowski's revenue proposals along with a budget that reduces state spending by $55 million and makes deep cuts in several areas including education.
The lottery measure is sponsored by the House Special Committee on Economic Development, International Trade and Tourism.
Lawmakers also may consider other gambling measures this session to raise revenues including allowing electronic gaming or joining a multistate Powerball lottery, Kott said.
A Murkowski spokesman said the governor has not seen the legislation but has mentioned it as a possible alternative revenue measure.
''I think it's safe to say it would be something he would be interested in looking at,'' said spokesman John Manly.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.