Karin Kloosterman
Sustainable news for Israel and the Middle east

Eilat, the Would-Be Las Vegas of Israel

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Gambling in Israel has a complex status; citizens are allowed to bet on certain activities but are restricted from others. As it stands, the laws prohibit Israelis from participating in both terrestrial and online casinos. But even so, punters still take part in their favorite pastime activity. And from the look of things, the strict laws issued by the government are just that, especially when it comes to online gambling – no one seems to care.

Many people, including leaders, hold the opinion that the legalization of gambling in the country would boost the economy in a range of ways. This is owing to the fact that the underground gambling sector is thought to be worth more than $3.5 billion a year. Top politicians have been trying to lobby the idea of turning Eilat, a coastal city in the country and a popular tourist destination spot, into Israel’s Las Vegas (alias, Red Sea Vegas). However, this has been met with significant opposition from religious groups and security forces who want nothing to do with the legalization of gambling in the county.

According to the opposing leaders, gambling will have a bad influence on society – that it creates more trouble than its worth and encourages illegal and addictive activities. While their fears are founded, the irony behind all these is that gambling is rife in the country. Citizens are participating in these activities already – and since all these is happening behind the curtains, it is even more difficult for the authorities to control any adverse situations.

In 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister strongly supported the plan to open a chain of gambling casinos in Eilat to save the tourism in the region. The idea was to issue licenses to hotel owners and even build some casinos on the old Eilat airport land. In 1990, a casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s longtime backer was disqualified (and also excluded himself) from opening a casino in Israel.

Israel Ministry of Finance approximates that Eilat casinos would increase the number of tourist nights in the region by 10%. But the question is, would citizens be allowed to participate in these casinos, and not just foreigners? One would bet, they wouldn’t – yet the reality is, Israelis are already deep in this. Despite the existing laws, they still gamble extensively.

Ministers have been requested to assess the situation and determine whether several hotels in Eilat should be issued with gambling licenses. The Prime Minister has strongly backed this idea. In fact, reports show that he asked Yariv Levin, the tourism minister, and Yisrael Katz, the transport minister to look into ramifications of running a casino in Eilat,

So, can four or eight casinos in Eilat feed the city and entire Israel? The tourism ministry, spearheaded by Levin believes that it can. The ministry’s figures reveal that the casinos in Eilat would generate 400 million shekels in government profits every year, including a 15% tax on casino revenues and 25 to 40% tax on gambling profits. There will also be income tax generated from employees who are either directly and indirectly earning through gambling. It also believes that 500,000 more tourists will come to the country when Eilat casinos open.

About the Author
Karin Kloosterman is a long-time journalist, and eco-entrepreneur, championing her energy for the earth and the good people and animal friends who live on it. She is a tech patent owner, brand designer, a published scientist, and an award-winning journalist. She's consulted governments, educational institutions and corporates such as Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TEVA, and Tel Aviv University. She founded the first international cannabis technology conference in Israel, CannaTech, to promote medical cannabis as medicine and science. And she developed a robot to grow cannabis on earth and on Mars. Find her sustainability ideas at the world's first and leading eco news site for the Middle East, Green Prophet Contact her:
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