Gambling is illegal in Israel, as per the Israeli Penal Law 5737 of 1977. That means there are no legitimate or legal casinos operating in the country, and it is illegal to gamble except in cases of sports betting and the lottery.
The Online Gambling Gray Area
Online gambling did not exist in 1977, meaning that the issue of online gambling in Israel was, for some time, contested. The law does not explicitly state the gambling online is illegal, and in 2005, the Israeli Attorney General was forced to make it clear that online gambling was governed under the Israeli Penal Law 5737. As a result, all online gambling companies with servers in Israel were shut down, and credit card companies that facilitated transactions between Israelis and online casinos were penalized. The move effectively shut down online gambling completely in Israel, and this remains the case to this day.
Do People Still Gamble in Israel?
While it is illegal for gambling sites to operate in Israel, Casino Bernie state that there are still some online casinos that allow customers rom Israel. The Israeli government would contend that they are breaking the law, but these sites abide by all the laws in the country in which they officially operate from. Users from Israel do face some challenges, however, as ISPs block these websites and it can be difficult to make transactions with those online platforms.
Some people in Israel do use these sites, and will typically use virtual private networks (VPNs) and foreign bank accounts or bank alternatives to make transactions.
There are, of course, also a number of unofficial land-based casinos that operate illegally in Israel. For this reason, the laws restricting gambling in Israel have come under an increasing amount of scrutiny. Many argue that relaxing the laws and allowing online gambling would ensure that people only use safe, regulated, and fair casinos. It could also be argued that allowing the industry would be positive for the Israeli economy.
Interestingly, Israel’s gambling restriction laws were initially taken from Britain’s system. However, upon realizing that banning gambling simply moved the industry underground, Britain relaxed their laws and now boasts a safe gambling industry with legal restrictions to ensure it is fair.
A Market Exists and is Ready for Change
The people of Israel might not agree on the direction to take, but a market does exist in Israel for online gambling. Illegal gambling in Israel is a huge and growing industry, with reports suggesting that illegal betting and gambling is worth as much as $3.5 billion in Israel every year.
Not only that, but sports betting and other gambling firms all over the globe have begun offering more games in Hebrew to cater to this growing market in Israel. There are now over 150 different online casinos that offer games in both English and Hebrew and have even expanded their payment processors to include support Israeli Shekels.
The market, therefore, exists. The only question is whether the politicians consider it a worthwhile endeavor to attempt to make this market work in the interests of Israel, or whether they deem further crackdowns a better solution.
Are Changes Being Made?
In January 2019, poker was declared a game of skill by the Israeli Supreme Court. Under the Israeli Penal Code, a prohibited game is one that has outcomes “depending more on chance than on understanding or ability.”
This means that poker, a game that involves a level of skill, is not technically considered gambling. As a result of the decision, Likud Knesset member Sharren Kaskel proposed a bill that would make poker tournaments legal. If the bill passes, it would mean that poker becomes a legal game in Israel both online and in land-based gaming facilities. The move is particularly interesting when compared with some states in the United States of American which have made online poker illegal. A country with significantly less restrictive laws on gambling, and which is home to Las Vegas, has places where poker is viewed in a more negative light than Israel.
There have been attempts in the past to make changes in Israel, too. Back in 2015, it was reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was considering plans for a casino in Eilat. When he made the proposal officially, however, they were shut down and it did not go ahead.
The signs are there, however, that people are willing to make changes and that the laws might change in the future. That doesn’t mean Israel will necessarily become a gambling hub of the East, but the possibility of some laws changing is there. In particular, online casinos may start operating from Israel if games like Poker are reclassified as a game of skill. Perhaps it might never be possible to play chance games like Roulette in Israel, but other games may soon be reclassified by the Supreme Court.