Israel Lawmakers to Try and Legalize Poker Once Again

Israel is home to some of the biggest gambling companies in the world and no small number of entities that are offering state-of-the-art poker platforms. Yet, online poker and international poker tournaments are snubbed by the country.

Winds of Change for Poker in Israel

This may very soon change if a proposal by New Hope faction chairwoman Sharren Haskel and Yesh Atid faction chief Boaz Toporovsky sees its way through the country’s key legislative powerbrokers, the Jerusalem Post writes.

The potential legalization of (online) poker would come on top of the already existing gambling framework, which includes sports betting and lottery. Conversely, poker is still considered illegal and carries stiff penalties.

With no land-based casinos in the country, entrepreneurial companies have hosted cruises from Eilat to organize poker tournaments in international waters and away from overbearing legislation. Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s former prime minister, tried to pitch a legal casino in Eilat in 2015, but his lobbying ultimately failed.

The success of the bill is contingent on several things. First, it seeks from the minister of culture and sports to legalize the regulator framework so that a process of finding licensees can be started. The bill, should it pass successfully, would enable both online and land-based poker to take place safely from within the country.

Haskel has been a long-time proponent of the legalization of poker in Israel, and she tried initiating regulation on several occasions. While her previous attempts have failed to gather any significant traction, her latest plan seems to be striking home with other important policymakers, including Toporovsky.

Through this collaboration, the bill has a chance to pass through all checks and come to fruition. However, it will still have to clear the country’s legislative body, the Knesset, which often objects to gambling on religious grounds. Even Netanyahu’s own party has clamped down on his efforts to pass casino legalization in the past.

With efforts to legalize poker rekindled in the country, Israel is looking at a sinuous road towards legalization. New York, a state that legalized sports betting, has been trying for years to get online poker legal with the help of prominent lawmakers.

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