Young immigrants bet on jobs with Tel Aviv gaming firms

"There aren't many jobs in Israel that give anyone the option to make more than 50 grand a year."

bingo 88 (photo credit: )
bingo 88
(photo credit: )
Gone is the romantic ideal of the new immigrant laboring on a kibbutz. Instead, many of today's young immigrants find themselves working late nights in Tel Aviv's burgeoning on-line gambling industry. On-line gambling is illegal in Israel, but Michal N., a German immigrant who works at PartyGaming, said her company does not cater to Israeli customers, thereby avoiding most legal issues within the country. Few employees at her branch have reached the stage where they feel at home in Israel, so they find the English-speaking environment comforting. Michal is a supervisor of the VIP Host Program for high-betting clients at the Gibraltar-based gambling giant's Israeli office. The on-line gaming industry allows many immigrants to use their pre-existing skills and earn competitive salaries in an environment that literally speaks their language. With limited Hebrew and little experience in the Israeli work place, many immigrants with impressive resumes struggle to find work and are relieved to find the foreign language-friendly zone of gaming firms. Most working in the industry found their jobs through personal connections or immigrant job networks; some even describe being offered jobs while in the post office or ulpan, based solely on their fluency in English. Yoni Davis's first job in on-line gaming was not even advertised. Davis, who hails from Tennessee, works as a supervisor and host of PartyGaming's PartyBingo Web site. "The company encourages us to bring in friends," said Davis. "They think you're going to look at these people more than [at] your family sometimes, so, with people you know, you're going to perform better." Davis said his job primarily consists of keeping players entertained and betting. The site - like many in the industry - is on-line 20 hour hours a day, seven days a week, and many employees work late into the night to provide services during US business hours. "It's weird, sometimes, that I work nights" said a PartyGaming employee who asked not to be identified, "but it's not as though I wouldn't be doing that in other jobs that olim [immigrants] have, like waitressing." "I don't even look at it as gambling. I look at it as providing a service," said Davis. "A lot of our clients don't speak to people in the street so much, so they look forward to speaking to their favorite chat host." "You'll hear any number of languages spoken," said ex-Californian Jeremy Gefen, an affiliate marketing manager for Euro Partners, a gaming and marketing firm known for its affiliate advertising programs. Gefen said that while many Israelis work at his firm, company business is conducted in English. "I'm becoming kind of an expert in my field," he said, adding that potential salaries in hi-tech were much higher than anything else that new immigrants might find in Israel. "It's a growing industry, it's hungry for talent, and because of that they're definitely willing to pay a little more... There aren't many jobs in Israel that give anyone the option to make more than 50 grand a year," Gefen said. Still, for many, the stigma remains. "For me, the whole time, it was a moral dilemma, and that was why I left," said one American immigrant who worked as a customer service representative for a small start-up casino. "I took the job because I couldn't afford not to," the American immigrant said. She found it difficult to deal with the many callers with gambling problems. She knew that the casino was accepting American customers, she said, but received very vague answers from her supervisors when they were asked why the firm was legally able to do so. She refrained from telling friends and family back in the States about her job, saying simply that she was doing customer service for a Web site.