Eilat slams freezing of casino legislation

Over the protest of Eilat hotel owners, the Knesset Economics Committee on Wednesday froze its pending legislation regarding the legalization of casinos. Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson (Kadima) said it was proper to halt work on the issue in light of the upcoming elections. Why ask legislators to draft a law that a new government might oppose? he asked. Even though Hirchson himself supports the move, he said it was "not proper to push ahead on it now." Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy and director general of the hotels' unions in Eilat Shabtai Shai protested the move. Shai said the hotels need the casinos or they will not be competitive with other international vacation spots. A representative from the Finance Ministry said that a number of casinos already operate illegally and failure to legalize casinos results in an economic loss for the state since it cannot tax the money used in them. But MK Shaul Yahalom (NRP) said that legalizing casinos was no different than legalizing prostitution. It harms the moral fabric of the society and increases crime, Yahalom said.