Survey targets gaming

Results show opposition to electronic machines in bars

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2003

Results of an informal survey conducted over the past month by Rep. Dan Ogg, R-Kodiak, in his Kodiak district indicate some Alaskans may be willing to have state lawmakers consider a lottery, but they are overwhelmingly opposed to allowing electronic gaming machines like video poker in bars.

About 100 people responded to the survey, which asked three questions concerning a lottery, video gaming and whether people thought gaming was a positive way to generate state revenue. The survey also asked respondents to add their own comments.

The results were released Tuesday in a press release by Ogg's office.

Fifty people said they were in favor of a statewide lottery, while 45 said they were not.

While 29 said video gaming in bars was OK, more than twice as many, 64, said they were opposed to the idea.

A strong majority, 53 out of 90, said they did not see gaming as a positive way to raise state revenue.

Ogg said many of the respondents made additional comments.

For instance, five noted that many Alaskans travel Outside to gamble, and five said they would support state-sponsored gambling if the proceeds went to education.

Nine people expressed concerns about the mix of alcohol and gaming with electronic gaming machines in bars.

Another 15 said there were social ills associated with gambling and wondered whether the benefits were worth the costs, while 17 said state-sponsored gambling would constitute a tax on the poorest residents.

Fourteen respondents said they would like to see a state income tax.

"I thought that was very interesting. We never asked that question," Ogg said, adding it was worth noting the constituents took the time to mention an income tax in a survey having nothing to do with taxes.

Ogg said Thursday he wasn't certain exactly how to interpret the results, which were still coming in, and wouldn't speculate about where the Legislature might go with gaming issues this coming session. He did say it gave him "a feel for what our community feels on these issues."

He said it seemed as if constituents weren't in favor of video gaming machines, though he said some bar owners in his district appear to see things differently.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, said he currently is conducting a survey in his Senate District Q, that is covering a broad range of issues, among them budget cuts and education, as well as gaming.

"Gaming will be a big topic this year," he said Thursday. "It will be a lot bigger on the House side than in the Senate. That's where the bills will be worked. There appears to be more support there than in the Senate."

Wagoner said he is not a strong advocate for gaming. At one time he favored the state trying a statewide lottery, he said. That's changed.

"Some information I've re-ceived really leads to questions about whether that is a smart thing to pursue," he said. "We can't balance the budget on the backs of people who gamble. It will create more social welfare problems."

As for electronic gaming machines, Wagoner said he once supported the idea but changed his mind after playing golf with a Montana man who was in the electronic gaming business.

"He said, 'You should run and hide' (from video gaming). 'It leads to all kinds of trouble,'" Wagoner said.

Wagoner said a statewide poll done earlier this year appeared to back up Ogg's numbers. Of 402 respondents, 60 percent favored a lottery, but 38 percent were opposed, he said, while 57 percent opposed video gaming, to only 40 percent who supported them. Some 64 percent, Wagoner said, favored raising taxes on pull-tabs.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said he expects a push for electronic gaming and a lottery in the next session, as well as a move to change regulations on pull-tabs. He didn't predict any results, but he did say if any gaming legislation flies, it would likely be a lottery.

However, Chenault said he had his doubts about the success of a lottery short of tying in with several other states in a Powerball-type lottery. A single state lottery here might bring in about $2 million, he said, not enough to justify the cost of operating it, in his opinion.

Rep. Kelly Wolf, R-Kenai, said he didn't think electronic video games have a chance, according to what he's hearing from legislators and from his own constituents who don't favor the idea.

"That's the message I'll take down there," he said.

As for a lottery, Wolf said there "wasn't a lot of bang for the buck" in a state lottery.

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