(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC)
The topic of gambling and the legality of gambling in Israel has always been a gray area. If you were to look at the Israeli law books, the section that deals with gambling, particularly the ban on gambling, lies in the Israeli Penal Law 5737 of 1977. The text of Penal Law 5737, however, did not address online gambling in any manner or form, which was cause for a lot of confusion and speculation. In 2005, the Israeli Attorney General took a stern stance against online gambling when he issued orders that not only mandated the closure of online gambling operators with servers based in Israel, but also penalized credit card companies that processed transactions for such online casino and gambling site operators.
The current situation is, unfortunately, not any more straightforward. At this time, attorneys interpret the law books as severely cracking down on casino gambling with some serious consequences for offenders, while in contradiction allowing sports betting and lottery as being perfectly legal.
When it comes to land-based casinos in Israel, they are much like unicorns - there aren’t any at all! However, where there is demand, there will be supply. The ban has resulted in several undercover casinos and gambling tables that operate behind closed doors. Not only are these unregulated and potentially frivolous, but such platforms can be downright dangerous. The gambling ban in Israel has come under some serious criticism of late for precisely such reasons. Not only will the legalization of casino gambling and gambling games like poker allow for safe, fair and regulated casinos, but it is also a great boost to the economy as it is heavily taxable. In fact, these are exactly the reasons why the ban was lifted in Britain.
British legislators were able to identify that a ban is not effective in stopping gambling, it is instead just forcing gambling underground and the country is also losing out on hundreds of millions (now billions) of pounds of revenue that a legal gambling market would generate every year (according to gamblingcommission.gov.uk
). In the UK, with respect to sports betting, a 15% tax on all gross profits made by punters has replaced an older betting duty of 6.75%. In January of 2010, the revenue generated from the gambling industry in Britain was extrapolated to be nearly £6 billion which at the time was a staggering 0.5% of the GDP of the United Kingdom. If the copious amounts of money generated is not incentive enough for Israeli law makers to legalize gambling and regulate it closely, then surely, one would think that the fact that the industry in the UK employs and empowers nearly 100,000 people and generates over £700 million in tax revenue would certainly put them over the fence, but remarkably, not so.
Despite the fact that Israel adopted the legal framework of Britain, including the ban on gambling, Israeli gambling laws do not seem to be as dynamic and evolving as its English counter - part. The Israeli laws revolving around gambling and the ban on casinos and games like poker are archaic in this day and age to say the least.
If it seems like gambling laws in Israel are shrouded in doubt and confusion, then you must know that online gambling laws are even worse. While it is clear that the legislation has made Israeli online casinos illegal, and also prohibits Israeli players from playing at these casinos, there is no clarity whatsoever when it comes to Israeli players playing on online casinos which have servers based offshore (like casino.com
).Technically, these are not Israeli online casinos and so they do not fall under Israeli jurisdiction. The best way to look at the online gambling situation in Israel is to take a leaf from the books of other countries where online gambling is restricted, but the country simply cannot outlaw their players playing on foreign casinos and their means to enforce such a ban would be severely lacking in all aspects were they to attempt such a ban.
Will Israel follow in the footsteps of Britain, from whom they adopted the gambling ban, and lift the ban? Only time will tell, but at this point, they seem to be in no hurry to do so.
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