If you could use just one phrase to describe Israel’s relationship with online gambling, it would probably be “it’s complicated.” The government only permits a few, very specific forms of gambling. Israeli casino sites are strictly prohibited and there are no brick-and-mortar casinos to be found anywhere. However, many of the world’s most recognizable gaming brands got their start in Israel and maintain a significant presence here today.
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Although Israel does not permit internet gambling domestically, the government does not prevent local casino sites from doing business in other countries where online gambling is legal and regulated. With a strong entrepreneurial and tech culture, Israel fosters a culture that is ripe for gaming companies to thrive on the international market even as those same companies are prohibited from doing business with Israeli citizens.
For just a few examples, William Hill, Playtech and 888 all maintain a significant presence in Israel today. William Hill employs a team of local local workers who specialize in technology, marketing and business. Playtech and 888 were both started in Israel by Israelis and are now two of the most successful companies in all of online gaming.
It may seem odd that Israel online casinos cannot even accept Israeli customers, but the business climate here is just so affable that it encourages new startups in the tech world. Local workers are still very in-tune with online gambling even if they cannot participate in the games themselves. If you would like to read more about the relationships between Israel and online gambling, the Times of Israel offers an in-depth explanation of the situation here.
Israel’s gambling-friendly business environment is great for the industry, but it creates one major drawback for Israeli gamblers: it is difficult to find online casinos that accept Israeli citizens. With so many of the world’s major gambling companies having a physical presence on Israeli soil, they have no choice but to follow the law of the land and block all customers from Israel.
Fortunately, there are still options. Not every online casino on the planet has an Israeli office. The sites recommended above are more than happy to offer their services regardless of your location. All you need to do is visit any one of those casino websites to sign up for an account and make a real money deposit.
Real Money Online Gambling in Israel
Deposits are another potential source for trouble when dealing with Israeli casino sites. The Central Bank has in the past issued directives to local banking institutions and payment processors ordering them to block payments to and from offshore online casinos. This is a common tactic used by anti-gambling governments in an attempt to dissuade locals from doing business with foreign gaming companies.
So, if your credit card deposit is declined, do not be alarmed. This is a common occurrence for gamblers all over the world thanks to antagonistic banking policies. All it means is you’ll need to try a different deposit method.
Bitcoin casino sites are becoming a favourite of gamblers in countries that implement payment blocking schemes. In fact, an increasing number of people are switching to bitcoin just because fees are almost nothing and payments can be processed almost instantly. You will be in good company as an Israel bitcoin user as we are reportedly one of the more bitcoin-friendly nations.
For those of you completely unfamiliar with bitcoin, don’t be put-off by its seemingly complex nature. Bitcoins have hit the mainstream and converting your money into bitcoins is as simple as visiting an exchange website and buying them. This Reddit thread is a bit dated now, but it provides a nice and straightforward guide to buying bitcoins in Israel.
Legal Online Gambling
Only two forms of gambling are explicitly legal in Israel. One of those is the lottery as managed by the National Lottery. They provide regular lottery drawings as well as instant scratch cards. The National Lottery is only available in the real world; online lottery tickets are not an option for Israelis.
The Israeli Sports Betting Board is the sole operator authorized to conduct sports betting in Israel under the general “Toto” brand. Unlike the lottery, this product is available online at Winner.co.il. As the only legal sports betting operator in Israel, Toto has a complete monopoly over all forms of sports betting. They operate roughly 1600 real-world betting locations in addition to their online operations.
Both land-based and online casinos in Israel remain illegal today, although that may change at some point in the future. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed interest in legalizing a limited number of land-based casinos since the late 90s and continues to urge lawmakers to reconsider.
Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to authorize Israeli casinos have been unsuccessful to date, but there are reports that a committee was convened to consider the issue of legalizing up to four casinos in Eilat. If that effort is successful, it would signal a major attitude change regarding gambling in Israel.
How the Law Impacts Israeli Casino Sites
Israel’s Penal Act of 1977 remains the primary piece of legislation dealing with gambling to date. Although the Act does not specifically mention online gambling, it has been interpreted to apply to the internet. Authorities to date work to shut down illegal gambling operations and online casinos in Israel.
The law is clear in that it prohibits the operation of casino sites that accept Israelis, but it is still debated whether or not these laws make it illegal for citizens to visit offshore gambling websites. In either case, authorities have not expressed an interest in targeting individual players.
Instead, the authorities target those who organize illegal gambling games such as underground casinos and sports betting rings. Assisting in the operation of unlawful gambling can also be considered a crime. For example, the authorities have even indicted independent software developers for “aiding and abetting” criminal activities.
Individual players appear to be fine at this time. That could always change, but there are no reports of people getting in trouble for simply placing bets online. The biggest issues you will face as a player are payment blocking and finding casino sites that even accept Israeli customers in the first place.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.