Alaska Lawmakers Eye Cruise Slots

Legislation to authorize slot machines on Alaska Marine Highway System ferry boats was met with skepticism from lawmakers in its first committee hearing.

Alaska Lawmakers Eye Cruise Slots

A bill that would introduce slot machines to Alaska’s ferry system had House members skeptical at its first legislative hearing by the House Labor and Commerce Committee.

House Bill 197, introduced by Rep. Jesse Sumner, would generate revenue for the state-run Alaska Marine Highway System by allowing slot play when the ships are more than three miles off Alaska’s coast. “It will be a win for this legislature, a win for our ferry system, and most importantly, a win for Alaska,” Sumner aide Joseph Lurtsema told Yogonet.

The bill’s sponsors have estimated revenues of $20 million a year or more from slots on the ferries. However, committee members brought up several logistical problems—the first being that few ferries in the Alaska fleet travel three miles from the shore.

Craig Tornga, marine director of the ferry system, highlighted that only a few specific routes like those to Dutch Harbor and across the Gulf of Alaska exceed the three-mile limit, which could significantly diminish the projected revenue.

Tornga also noted that many of the ferry boats were built in the 1960s, and thus may not have the electrical infrastructure required for slot machines.

Committee members also raised concerns about potential opposition from and cannibalization of Alaska’s current gambling parlors, which include pull-tab parlors that benefit nonprofits and Native tribes.