Sunday, September 04, 2005

Signature Gathering To Put Gaming Commission On Ballot Approved

Signature Gathering To Put Gaming Commission On Ballot Approved: "


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Signature Gathering To Put Gaming Commission On Ballot Approved
Sep 04, 2005

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman on Thursday said sponsors can begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would create a commission with the power to regulate and expand gambling in Alaska. The proposed commission would not need the Legislature's permission to allow any game of chance in the state, including casino games, lotteries and slot machines. Gambling in Alaska is limited to games like bingo, pull tabs and raffles.
The seven-member commission would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.
Ken Jacobus, the lawyer for the sponsors, believes the group should be able to collect the 31,451 signatures from registered Alaska voters over the next year to qualify the initiative for the 2006 ballot. The signatures must come from all around the state.
'We are confident we can (collect enough),' Jacobus said.
The ballot initiative is sponsored by people associated with a bar and restaurant industry trade group, which in past years has lobbied unsuccessfully in the Legislature for video gambling machines in bars and clubs.
The trade group has claimed that the public supports gambling proposals. However, proposals to legalize card rooms for gamblers, an Anchorage casino, a state lottery and video poker have all failed to pass the Legislature in recent years.
The Alaska Department of Law said there are potential legal problems with taking the power to legalize gambling away from the Legislature and giving it to a commission. But the department said that could be sorted out after Alaskans had a chance to vote on the ballot initiative.
The state's lawyers also said allowing new kinds of gambling anywhere in Alaska could trigger a federal Indian law granting tribal rights to start gaming operations on "Indian Land" in the state. There is a dispute, however, over whether anything qualifying as Indian Land exists in Alaska, other than the reservation of Metlakatla in the Southeast panhandle.
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