Israel reportedly looking at opening countrys first legal casino
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Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is said to have asked two senior ministers to examine the feasibility of opening the country’s first legal casino in the coastal city of Eilat in an attempt to transform the tourist resort into the Las Vegas of the Red Sea.
The proposal, reported on Israeli television, resurrects a long-mooted and controversial plan to legalise casino gambling, which has historically been resisted 9club by the religious and security authorities.In the 1990s, Netanyahu’s long-time backer Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate, was blocked after expressing an interest in opening a casino in Israel.Gambling in Israel has a complex status. Israelis can bet on certain activities but not others, with Eilat already home to gambling cruises that take punters into international waters.
Another alternative is to cross the border to visit casino hotels in Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, although that has become less popular as the Sinai peninsula has beendestabilised by increasing violence. Illicit gambling is also available inside Israel, with the most recent illegal casino being discovered this summer in a disused bomb shelter. Yariv Levin, the tourism minister, appeared to confirm reports of the new proposal being pushed by Netanyahu – originally revealed by Israel’s Channel 10 – by saying that he fully supported the idea.
Ministers have reportedly been asked to look into whether several Eilat hotels should be licensed for gambling, not least ones that operate casinos elsewhere in the world.A second alternative would be to construct a new purpose-built casino on the current site of Eilat’s airport, which is 9club soon to be replaced by a larger airport outside the city that is currently under construction. Netanyahu has strongly supported the idea of licensing casinos previously. According to the reports, he tasked Yariv and the transport minister, Yisrael Katz, with assessing the ramifications of operating a casino in Eilat.
Speaking on Israeli radio on Friday, Yariv confirmed the new interest, not least as a way to attract gamblers from Europe. He said: “As tourism minister, I support this fully. I have no doubt that the way to help Eilat economically and to increase the number of tourists is by means of a casino.
“There is no doubt that a casino also has very serious social potential and if we go ahead with this, we have to make sure that this is done with restrictions and supervision to prevent the casino from becoming an incubator for crime.
“I am coordinating a detailed inquiry into this matter and when it is concluded, I will present the conclusions to the prime minister and based on that, we will make decisions.”
While any casino is likely to be opposed by the ultra-orthodox on the grounds of morality, it may also be resisted by law enforcement figures concerned over the already deep involvement of Israel’s crime families in illicit gambling, not 9club least in Eilat.
Earlier this month, an Israeli court convicted Ian Ben-Shitreet, the alleged kingpin of gambling in Eilat, of attempted murder and racketeering.