(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC)
Keen gamblers in many countries are lucky enough to be able to simply pop into a bricks-and-mortar casino or go online and choose from a wealth of options when they want to place a wager. However, that isn’t the case everywhere in the world. So, what is the state of play in Israel? Can Israelis legally play at casinos? Here, we take a look at the gambling situation for Israeli players, so you can know the facts.
Government Restricted Gambling
Gambling may be popular among Israeli players, however, there are only two types of gambling which have been legalized. The Israeli government only permit citizens to play their National Lottery or participate in sports betting. Sadly, for Israelis who love nothing more than placing a wager, traditional casino games are forbidden except on dedicated cruise ships which can be found docked at the bigger port cities in Israel.
Mifal Hapayis, the governmental organization which oversees the country’s National Lottery, together with the Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling, is responsible for directing all activities relating to sports betting and the lottery. Yet, even though strict laws are in place surrounding gambling in Israel, table games are as popular with Israeli players as with players elsewhere in the world. Traditional games like blackjack and roulette are greatly enjoyed, but Baccarat is increasing in popularity within the online casinos
too. So much so, that Israel has seen a thriving underground gambling sector appearing over recent years which is said to be worth over $3.5 billion a year.
The Online Gambling Sector in Israel
While some types of gambling on land are allowed in Israel, it is still illegal to gamble online. There are many Israelis who are keen for online gambling to be regulated and licensed, but at the present time, the government is taking no steps in this direction. At present, the only gambling websites allowed to operate out of Israel are sports betting websites and the Israeli National Lottery. Both of these are controlled by the government.
While Israel’s government continues to try to prevent citizens from gaining access to the countless foreign operated and owned online casinos, their ISP level method of filtering or internet blocking isn’t completely effective. This means that lots of keen Israeli gamblers carry on playing at these gambling sites without being detected. Lots of foreign gambling websites even have versions in the Hebrew language to make them more accessible to Israeli players!
Recent Blocking Attempts
The Israeli government is aware that many foreign online casinos are targeting their services at would-be gamblers from Israel and are working tirelessly to prevent them from doing so.
Recently, a couple of domains were blocked from aiming their services at Israeli players via an injunction ordered by the courts. The order required all local ISPs to block these three domains and therefore prohibit Israeli players, at least in theory, from being able to access their gambling services.
This was just the latest step that the government has taken to try to curb Israeli gambling. A law was passed in 2017 called the “Powers to Prevent Offenses Through an Internet Site” which gave power to local authorities to issue restrictions for ISPs with regard to any serious crime, one of which being unregulated gambling activity.
The government is so desperate to take a hard-line stance against any form of gambling that in 2017, Israeli police officers were told that they were not permitted to visit any casino, even a legal one when traveling overseas.
Of course, just because a domain has been blocked doesn’t mean that keen Israeli gamblers can’t work around it. The most dedicated have worked out how to bypass their provider’s DNS, and for those that haven’t, there are numerous YouTube videos which explain the best way to do this.
Illegal gambling is therefore rife nationwide. While arrests do occur, Israeli gamblers don’t seem to be deterred, and there is a general feeling that casinos will eventually be legalized. There is a strongly held belief in certain circles that the only possible way of undermining the illegal industry which is operated by organized criminals is to make the gambling industry legal. It’s obvious, then that Israel is very divided on the subject of gambling. There are a number of leading politicians who are keen to regulate gambling fully and have the ambition to turn Eilat
, already a popular vacation resort, into a “Red Sea Vegas”. Security forces and religious groups, on the other hand, are keen for the existing ban to carry on.
The Current State of Play
While it’s still illegal to gamble either in a bricks-and-mortar casino or with an online provider in Israel, that doesn’t prevent countless keen Israeli gamblers from seeking out casinos websites which can accommodate their needs. They can visit sites like baccarat.net and discover many different operators who are happy to register Israeli players for their online gambling services, with some even accepting Shekels as a form of currency. It’s unlikely that there’ll be any change in this state of play any time soon.