New casino destinations

Israel Casino ConceptIsrael is a country that is often in the news, but generally the news isn’t good or at the least it’s a little controversial.

It was a bit surprising therefore to read about plans to open Israel’s first legal casino. The drive for the casino seems to be coming from the very top, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apparently commissioning a feasibility study for a casino to be opened in the city of Eilat.

The Las Vegas of the Red Sea Eilat is a coastal city on the Red Sea. Already an established tourist resort, initial thinking seems to be that Eilat could be transformed into Israel’s answer to Las Vegas.

One of the barriers to opening a casino in Israel, and on the reasons that the country doesn’t have any casinos yet, is that casino gambling is not currently legal – religious authorities have been strongly opposed to the legalisation of gambling.

The legal position regarding gambling in Israel is actually quite complicated – Israelis can bet on some activities but not others. The tourist destination of Eilat already has a number of gambling cruise operators that take gamblers out into international waters to dodge the restrictions on casino games.

Who stands to benefit?

There are obviously some important business interests at work behind the scenes. One of Netanyahu’s biggest financial supporters is Sheldon Adelson who is a casino magnate – he has previously tried to obtain approval to open a casino in Israel.

By legalising casino gambling, even if just in limited locations such as Eilat, Israel would also be stopping the leakage of gamblers beyond its borders. Egypt’s Red Sea holiday resorts already offer a range of casino hotels which attracts gamblers from both Israel and internationally.

International tourism remains essential for Israel’s economy. Political instability in the region is one of the main barriers to attracting visitors to the country – having a new casino destination could be something that helps to attract visitors to one of Israel’s major holiday resorts.

Some legalisation of gambling would also help reduce the appeal of illicit or underground gambling in Israel which appears to be widespread. Law enforcement officials in Israel have previously expressed concern bout the involvement of organised crime in illicit gambling activities, with Eilat known as one of the main centres for this activity.

Where would the new casino be built?

If gambling in some form is legalised for Eilat, there are a number of existing hotels where new casino facilities could be built. Another alternative is the current site of Eilat’s airport – a new airport is under construction and so the current site could be transformed into a casino resort.

One casino clearly won’t see Eilat rivalling the international gambling powerhouses of Las Vegas or Macau, but it is definitely a start. The world’s gamblers are always keen to try new casinos and experience new destinations – if casino gambling is made legal in Israel then the casino of Eilat could soon be welcoming the world’s high rollers.