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Israel: Online gambling’s silent hi-tech powerhouse

Robbie Strazynski says Israel's makeup explains why it holds such a large market share
Gambling on a cruise ship (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Gambling on a cruise ship (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I’m a marketing writer for an online gaming company based in Ramat Gan. Often, my response is met with raised eyebrows – “What? I thought that’s illegal here in Israel, no?”

Indeed, all forms of online gambling are illegal in Israel, but that hasn’t prevented a number of homegrown companies from running online casinos, poker rooms, bingo rooms, and sports betting sites that cater to the desires of gamblers abroad. Essentially creating the online gambling industry back in the late 1990s, Israeli companies hold a very large market share in the sector to this very day.

Some of the names have become quite recognizable such as Playtech, the world’s largest online gaming software supplier, which was founded by billionaire Teddy Sagi. Other well-known online gambling companies that maintain a sizeable presence in the Holy Land include 888, Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, William Hill Online, Ladbrokes Digital, and Caesars Interactive Entertainment. Indeed, Israeli hi-tech brainpower is the engine driving these companies forward.

The People

Israeli citizens originally hailing from all over the world bring a considerable amount of professional know-how with them upon immigrating. Many of them find themselves ending up employed by the local online gambling industry titans, often attracted by excellent salaries and working conditions offered. Of course, hundreds of talented native-born Israelis are employed in the industry as well.

As the companies provide a gambling service to millions worldwide, positions that need filling in order to “run the machine” include jobs in affiliate marketing, customer support, internal marketing, translations, content writing, graphic design, and of course software development and mobile app development.

The Technology

Just as numerous multinational hi-tech companies have their R&D centers here in Israel, this focus on research and development has extended in kind to online gambling.

Specifically, many attribute Israel’s pioneering role in the online gambling industry to two things:

  • The country’s relative wealth of high-quality programmers
  • A cultural leaning towards aggressive stances on embracing and implementing new technologies

Mobile technology in particular has been co-opted by the big Israeli online gambling companies in order to deliver their products. Nowadays, you don’t need to fire up your PC to place a bet online. That’s because technology has been developed that allows bettors to wager on their Smartphones and tablets via both native and mobile Web apps.

So Why Insist on Laying Low?

With multiple billions in revenue streaming in from every corner of the globe, and the total online gambling industry turnover increasing by leaps and bounds with each passing year, Israeli gaming powerhouses are clearly riding a wave of tremendous success.

As for why more people aren’t necessarily aware of the Israeli connections to online gambling, perhaps, like a good poker player, it’s just the local industry’s preference to conceal its hand. That said, if our government ever decides to make online gambling legal in Israel, surely there will be plenty of well-known industry players ready to ante up.

If and when that happens, in addition to our online gambling technology prowess acting as a light unto the nations of the world, it will also finally be able to shine brightly here at home.

Robbie Strazynski can be reached at robbie@cardplayerlifestyle.com.

About the Author
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Robbie Strazynski has been living in Israel since 1998. He's the founder of Cardplayer Lifestyle, one of the world's top poker blogs, the co-creator of the Poker Notes Live mobile app, and co-host of the Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast. His full-time job is as the Head of Content Strategy for a publicly-traded Internet Marketing company, which operates a number of top online casino, poker, and sports betting sites, including PokerUpdate.com. He currently resides in Ginot Shomron with his wife and 3 children.
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