The landscape of the Online Casino Industry in Israel for 2020

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

Although Israelis are fond of gambling, the country has legalized only sports betting and national lottery games. Residents can place bets on sports and play lottery games online at government-controlled websites. While the Mifal Hapayis oversees all activities related to lottery gaming, the Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling oversees all activities related to sports betting and lottery gaming.

But options are limited for residents who wish to play casino games such as slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, and baccarat as the country hasn’t legalized casino gaming. The only way to play casino games in Israel is to visit the cruise ship casinos that are docked in the country’s port cities. Make sure to read things to know about online casinos in Israel before you start playing.

Online Casino Gaming Laws in Israel 

Israel does not have laws that specifically prohibit or criminalize online casino gaming. In 2005, the attorney general of Israel clarified that the only law related to online gambling was the Israeli Penal Law 5737

When this clarification was issued, several online gambling sites that had their servers in Israel were closed down. The government used the law to penalize credit card companies that processed gambling related funds. To this day, online gambling remains either illegal or a grey area in the country. 

Although Israel does not authorize any online casino to offer its services to residents, it is worth noting that some of the top online gambling platforms of the world are of Israeli origin. For example, 888 is an Israel-based online gambling company that operates throughout the world. Playtech, one of the top providers of online casino gaming software solutions in the world, was established by Israelis. PokerStars, one of the biggest online poker sites in the world, was launched by Canadians who are Israelis by birth. 

Legal Gambling in Israel 

As of now only lottery games and sports betting are legal in Israel, and both forms of gambling are monopolized by the government of Israel. 

Although the government does not permit online casino gaming, it does not penalize citizens who create real money gaming accounts at offshore online casinos. Residents feel that the country will legalize online casino gaming in the long run even though the government does not appear to be taking any steps in this direction at the time of writing. 

On the other hand, the government of Israel is doing everything in its power to prevent citizens from gaining access to offshore online casinos. Recently, ISPs in Israel were directed to block certain online casinos but interested Israelis can always find ways to bypass these blocks. In fact, there are YouTube videos in Hebrew that show residents how to access blocked sites in a matter of seconds. 

The government of Israel’s online casino gaming laws, or rather, the lack of such laws does not turn residents away from online gambling. In fact, a large number of online casinos offer gaming services and customer support in Hebrew, accept deposits in Shekels, and do not care for Israel’s online gambling laws. However, they do comply with the gambling regulations of the jurisdiction that has granted them their gambling license. 

In addition, Israelis have the option to traveling to gambling-friendly nations such as Malta, Czech Republic, or Bulgaria, where they can legally play online casino games to their heart’s content. Or they can visit the cruise ships that offer online casino games on waters beyond Israeli territory. 

How to Find Online Casinos in Israel 

Israel is a lucrative market for a number of online casinos licensed and regulated in offshore jurisdictions such as the UK, Malta, Alderney, and others. So, it isn’t difficult for Israelis to find a licensed and reputed online casino. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are trying to find a reputed online casino in Israel: 

  • Make sure that the online casino is licensed in a reputed gambling jurisdiction such as the UK, Malta, Isle of Man, Alderney, Gibraltar, and others. 

  • Check if the online casino maintains a safe and secure online gambling environment.

  • Visit the banking page and look for Israel friendly payment methods.

  • Check if the online casino offers customer support and gaming services in Hebrew.

  • Ensure that the online casino supports Shekels. 

  • Interact with online casino players at social networking sites and online gambling forums to find out their opinion of the online casino. 


Israel’s Thriving Illegal Online Gambling Market 

Israel is a lucrative market for online gambling. In the absence of regulation, Israel has become home to an illegal online gambling market that is currently worth $3.5 billion. The underground online gambling market has caused a lot of concern for the government as it hurts them in more than one way.

The main concern is that these illegal gambling sites are not regulated and hence can take advantage of Israelis and exploit them. Some of these online casinos do take advantage of unsuspecting players and exploit them. The second concern for the government is that a lot of money is being spent on online gambling and the government is unable to collect any taxes.

At the time of writing, more than 150 online casinos and online sports betting sites offer services in Hebrew as well as English. It is up to Israel’s lawmakers to consider legalizing and regulating a thriving industry for the benefit of players. 


Future of Online Gambling in Israel 

The Supreme Court of Israel declared in Jan 2019 that poker is a game of skill, owing to which, playing poker does not constitute gambling. As a result, Sharren Kaskel proposed a bill to legalize poker tournaments. If this bill is passed into law, playing poker will become legal in Israel. 

This indicates that the government of Israel is open to change and may create a regulatory framework for online casino gaming in the future. Like many other countries in the world, Israel too may soon realize the benefits of legalizing its online casino gaming industry.