To call Alaska “weird” is to do a disservice to the concept of oddity itself. Simply think of a rule or fashion that works anywhere else in what the state’s denizens call “The Lower 48” and you can bet (so to speak) that things work in exactly the opposite way up in the Last Frontier. Simply put, this is a state brimming with extremes: Extremes in temperature, in size, in law and in lifestyle.
And in the 21st century, the formerly trace amounts of football strewn about the vast emptiness of Alaska have blossomed in the permafrost, even helping grow real unity and/or community spirit in many a village…
Betting in Alaska
When Secretary of State Robert Seward worked the deal for his boss Andrew Johnson to purchase the Alaska Territory with minister Edouard de Stoeckl for Alexander II and the Russians, the would-be state was extremely densely populated. Forget the “Old West”, this was the Last Frontier, and it made Idaho look like Boston both in terms of population and laxity of the law.
Some 32 years after Seward worked the acquisition with Russia, gold was discovered near Nome and before one could say “(California) Alaska, here we come,” the Nome Gold Rush was on. As with any “boomtown”-type explosion in economic and transient population growth – and particularly those of the 19th-century United States – the scammers and flimflammers preyed on the more honest (and naïve) fortune-seekers.
Inside of two years, the population of Nome had swelled twentyfold, from around 1,000 to an estimated 20,000-plus. (The 2010 census put the Nome population are about 3,600.) According to the Seattle Intelligencer, “The major business in Nome in 1900 was not mining, but gambling and the saloon trade … Downtown Nome was lined with nearly 100 saloons and gambling houses, with an occasional restaurant sandwiched in between.” Heck, even Wyatt Earp temporarily set up shop with his wife there.
The boom was over by 1902 and as before, the only betting going on was of the illegal sort, with law enforcement non-existent and/or useless in most areas. When Alaska became a state in 1959 and technology such as single-engine biplanes was somewhat readily available, betting was expressly made illegal, with the relevant statute also mandates that any single-occasion gambling activity must be approved and added to state law. The result of this is that today, the state constitution makes mention of amazing stuff like Alaskan betting events as the “Cabbage Classic,” “Canned Salmon Classic”, the “Deep Freeze Classic”, the “Mercury Classic” and the “Snow Machine Classic.”
Football in Alaska
We’ll start at the top division and work down, because of course in Alaska football down is up.
Since incorporation, the state of Alaska has produced exactly 11 native-born sons who have gone on to play professional football. IN order of games played, these are OG Mark Schlereth (who played 156 games in the NFL), DT Travis Hall (150), OT Daryn Colledge (141), DB Zackary Bowman (99), OG Chris Kuper (90), DT Shane Boham (76), LB Reggie Walker (75), WR Steve Smith (64), DB Sammy Lilly (50), DE David Veikune (14) and DE Bob Rozier (6). We may also add a handful of transplants who played high school ‘ball in Alaska: SS Reggie Tongue, OT Tom Neville, DE Mao Tosi, DE David Fa’otusia Veikune and DT Tui Alailefaleula.
The truth is, regardless of spin, only Vermont has produced fewer pro football players. As with Vermont, one may ascribe this lack to both straight-up low population in addition to a paucity of high schools offering the sport (though Alaska is seeing vast improvement in this area) and zero university football programs in the state.
This is high school football the big thing in Alaska. Whereas high school football in Alaska was nearly solely played by schools in Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula towns prior to 1980, the 1990s in particular saw a boom in high school football programs as a positive activity for youth to participate in. Poster child for this sort of transformation via football is the town of Barrow, a village well within the Arctic Circle, who went from no program to Alaska Division III champions in 11 years, along the way attracting the attention of ESPN documentarians and NFL Network producers.
Finally, NFLbets must mention the two attempts (or maybe one double attempt) to place a professional football teams in Alaska, despite an 8-hour flight from the U.S. East Coast: In 2007, the “Intense Football League” (ugh) established the Alaska Wild in Anchorage and in ’08 added the Fairbanks Grizzlies. As is commonplace in arena-style football leagues, the IFL merged with another association to form the revamped Indoor Football League in ’09. Though loal commendably supported the teams for a few seasons, the 0-14 posted by the Wild in 2009 was pathetic enough to induce tumbleweeds at home games.
By 2011, both Alaska football teams were defunct and no serious talks to try installing pro football in Alaska have been advanced.
Betting on Football in Alaska
Despite a pervasive libertarian attitude toward individual freedom in Alaska, alongside this runs a staunch vein of conservatism – not necessarily of the civil rights-quashing variety, but rather of the if-the-law-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it-sort. Alaskan legislators and lawmakers have seen little reason to make sweeping changes to sate law in the first 60 years of the state’s existence and don’t seem likely to in the future.
Of course, for those interested in football betting from Alaska, a positive side to the legal coin also can be seen: Since Alaska has no explicit law banning online gambling – and note that daily fantasy sports betting is legal in Alaska as well – an overturn of federal law would at the very minimum open a window of opportunity for football betting…