Most Alaskans who are aware of the state’s dire financial situation took heart when Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that there is one form of new revenue he will support.

“This session,” Dunleavy said during his State of the State address on Jan. 28, “I’ll be supporting legislation to bring gaming to Alaska.

“Alaska can no longer afford to deny itself a revenue stream available to nearly every other state in the nation,” the governor continued. “Along with enhancing revenue, gaming could create hundreds of high-paying jobs in some of our communities, and we would join a long list of states that have embraced gaming for some time.”

To our knowledge, Dunleavy hasn’t introduced such legislation yet, which means there’s still time to propose a win-win-win opportunity.

Think riverboat casinos, Alaska Marine Highway System style.

Midwest rivers such as the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Ohio are host to a number of stationary or fully functional vessels that offer a range of gambling activities.

According to an industry overview in the travel website, “the last decades of the 20th century found states looking for new revenue sources that would be appealing to voters. Many states began allowing riverboats to offer casino gambling.”

That included Iowa, which first legalized riverboat casinos in 1989.

“Many of these boats are really stationary barges that never leave the dock,” according to Tripsavvy. “They are moored on a river, lake or ocean permanently.”

Which brings us back to Alaska, AMHS and Ketchikan.

A drive around Ward Cove brings into view AMHS vessels that haven’t left the dock in, well, it seems like forever.

Why not string up some Christmas lights, install a few slots and, voila! It’s the Fairweather Belle!

The Tripsavvy overview continued: “In addition to the riverboat and tribal casinos, some states have begun allowing ‘cruises to nowhere’ that take passengers out beyond the three-mile limit for one night or weekend gambling cruises.”

Ketchikan pretty much has the “to nowhere” concept trademarked. How about bringing the “Malaspina Queen” out of retirement to sail gambling cruises around Gravina Island — the original Nowhere!

All we’d need is busloads of punters from somewhere to get that money flowing!


It’s kind of fun to let the mind wander into the realms of the far-fetched. Turning mothballed ferries into money-spinning casinos won’t be happening, but it is a hoot to ponder.

The much harder things to think about are the ultimate fate of the out-of-service ferries moored in Ketchikan — and of the new ferries Tazlina and Hubbard that are not on the AMHS summer (May-September) schedule and, as such, literally will have nowhere to go until at least October. Despite undertaking two study processes in two years, the administration has yet to propose a plan forward for AMHS.

As for gaming, Alaska awaits the governor’s actual proposal. It likely will be more realistic than ferryboat casinos, yet still a difficult sell with any number of potential pitfalls.

The governor would do well to have another revenue ace up his sleeve, just in case.