Alaska editorial: Some forms of gambling already exist in Alaska

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005

This editorial first appeared in the Voice of the (Anchorage) Times:

It would be one thing, perhaps, to condemn poker parlors as an evil crack-in-the-door that will soon open the way for big gambling operations in Anchorage and Alaska - if it weren't for the fact that gambling is rampant here already.

Unfortunately, we opened that door a long time ago. Once, the only authorized gambling in Alaska was the annual guessing game about the day and hour when the ice would go out every spring on the Tanana River at Nenana.

Sure, there was other gambling. The police every now and then raided a local club that had a few slot machines hidden away from the eyes of those who weren't members. There was pan and other games on which money was wagered.

But along came bingo parlors and pull tabs under the guise of being a way to raise money for charity (with the owners pocketing by far the biggest percentage of the take) - not to mention charity raffles by the thousands.

There was gambling here and gambling there, and big money everywhere. Various legislative acts over the years have condoned gambling while at the same time piously pretending it doesn't really exist.

But state lottery? Oh, no, that would be bad. Casinos? Heaven forbid, those are for Las Vegas and other gambling meccas. Card rooms? Surely not, because people would sit in them all day and night and gamble. Has anybody visited one of Anchorage's major bingo parlors lately?

We long ago opposed legalized gambling in Alaska. The Nenana Ice Classic was as far as we wanted to go. But that was a battle we lost during many years past. Like it or not, Alaska has gambling - legal and otherwise.

Now comes Perry Green, an Anchorage furrier and a poker player of national repute, who wants the Legislature to authorize card rooms. He's being realistic, he says, because big-pot poker games are played here every night of the week - and by moving them into licensed game rooms the state and the city would reap considerable tax money, and the economy would be helped by the creation of a lot of new jobs.

He's probably right. Everyone is aware of the rising popularity of poker, as evidenced by endless hours of high-stake matches on cable television. Moreover, as he pointed out in a speech before the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, online poker is available to anyone who knows how to navigate the Internet.

As far as expansion of gambling goes, we probably would feel better about a big casino in our midst than we would about a number of neighborhood card rooms.

But you have to acknowledge that Perry Green has a point.

And those who don't agree should be on their high horse and start campaigning to get rid of pull tab shops, bingo parlors and all the other gambling spots.

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