Online gambling still banned in Israel

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The days when online gambling will be legalised in Israel still seem far away. At present, the only forms of gambling that are legal in the country are trying to win the National Lottery and betting on sport.

The reason for this limited ability to gamble in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel is a mixture of socialist and religious values. There have been few changes made to the gambling laws and little or anything seems likely to change.

Those who do wish to gamble online like in the UK and some “social gaming” use the Israel Sports Betting Board (ISBB). A desire to add betting on horse racing was refused in 2018.

If you want to choose some hopefully winning lottery numbers, this is done with the National Lottery (Mifal Hapayis). They have had problems with the government though. In 2017, the use of video terminals was banned by the government.

There is also the possibility of some gambling on casino games. This can be carried out on cruise ships when docked in harbour. Not very useful though if you live a long way away from the port cities in Israel.

 It’s the inability to bet online that would drastically change the gambling scene in Israel. Until laws do come along similar to those seen in the USA, this won’t change. Israelis find themselves having to go to the illegal gambling sector to play casino games and bet on sport. This is a thriving business and estimates say that it is worth an annual amount of $3.5 billion.

There is also the ability to register with overseas betting sites. They are always keen for business and that explains why some have Hebrew language versions of their content. Registering with gambling sites from other countries does not go down well with the Israeli government. Nor does Israeli police officers visit land-based casinos when they go abroad.

They have indulged in blocking the overseas gambling sites. This is sometimes successful but not entirely so the gambling continues to take place. The government is also prepared to take companies to court, hoping to get an injunction to stop them getting more customers from Israel.

Five years ago, the Israeli government passed the “Powers to Prevent Offences Through an Internet Site” law. Restrictions on ISPs can be made, and this includes online gambling.

There are concerns over allowing gamblers to bet online. The fear is that the online sites are so accessible and can lead to players becoming addicted to gambling. 

Sometimes a government finds themselves in a position where stamping something out just isn’t going to happen. It’s believed this may well be the case with gambling particularly with the involvement of organised criminals in the illegal industry. 

The only solution may be to legalise gambling in some way. If that does happen, it’s likely the sites would be state owned with the government laying down the laws.

Such a move would require a lot of support from politicians. There are some who do want to see a regulated gambling industry. 2020 saw a private member’s bill proposed in the Knesset. It had the aim of regulating real-money poker tournaments. The theory is that poker is not a game of chance, and a great deal of talent is needed to be successful. However, the support is just not there at present to pass any legislation.

Many countries in the world have long legalised traditional gambling. So, in the UK casinos have existed for several centuries. Playing online and betting over the Internet are also allowed in Britain. The USA also has a rich history of casinos. But there they are not allowed everywhere, but only in a few states. However, for the past three years in the United States, more than 11 states have allowed online sports betting and casino games. As for Russia, for example. Casinos were banned a few years ago. Also banned from playing online. Now in Russia, you can only bet on sports via the Internet with licensed bookmakers.

In Ukraine, they have been trying to legalise online casinos for many years, now this area of business is on the rise and you can bet on sports online there. Also, Ukrainians can come to the bookmaker's office and physically deposit a certain amount of money for their favourite team.

This article was written in cooperation with Evgeny Krinitsyn, Sales2go