Legislature may resurrect bill to allow video gambling

Sponsor says he has more support for measure than before

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2000

A bill to expand gambling in Alaska may be coming back to life.

House Bill 182 will be scheduled for another vote Tuesday, about two weeks after the House Transportation Committee voted it down 4-2, said committee Chairman Andrew Halcro.

The bill would allow state-monitored video gambling machines in bars and other places that now sell pull-tabs for nonprofit organizations. A provision allowing the machines on state ferries has been removed.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Pete Kott, an Eagle River Republican, asked Halcro to bring up the bill again Thursday, saying he had commitments from enough committee members to pass it this time.

However, that plan was thwarted. Two members, Republican Reps. Vic Kohring of Wasilla and Beverly Masek of Willow, didn't show up, and Democratic Reps. Al Kookesh of Angoon and Alan Kemplen of Anchorage threatened to leave the room. That would have left the panel short of a quorum.

``I'm personally opposed to expansion of gambling in this state,'' Kemplen said.

Halcro, an Anchorage Republican, said he'd rather wait until Tuesday anyway, since the bill hadn't been on the committee's agenda Thursday.

Rep. Bill Hudson, a Juneau Republican on the committee, said he'd vote to move the bill out of the committee since it no longer has a transportation component, with the ferry provision removed.

But Hudson said he won't vote for the bill if it makes it to the House floor because he doesn't support an expansion of gambling in Alaska.

Charitable gaming is a $300-million-per-year industry in Alaska.

The Cabaret, Hotel and Restaurant Retail Association supports Kott's measure.

Most of the profits from the video gambling machines would be split between the charities and vendors, with the rest going to cities and the state.

Kott said the bill would tighten up gambling operations by helping eliminate fraud and ensuring that charities receive their fair share of proceeds. The electronic machines would be hooked up to a state-controlled computer system that is checked regularly for tampering, he said.

``There's absolutely no way that you could cheat,'' Kott said.

Gov. Tony Knowles' administration doesn't like the bill because of concerns about the social consequences of expanding gambling in the state, particularly in bars.

The state also believes it will incur a significant cost because it's required to provide the video gambling machines, monitor them and maintain them, said Larry Persily, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Revenue.

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