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September 28, 2020

Netanyahu Proposes a Casino in Eilat; Opponents Fear Crime

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks forward to introducing a casino in Eilat. Therefore, he recently discussed it with his tourism and transportation ministers to check the odds of the same in an intrepid step in view of the huge opposition inside as well as outside his cabinet, and the bungled efforts in the past.

At a gap of every few years, the Eilat casino brainchild is put forth at government ministries. The latest proposal is a similar one. The office of the Prime Minister admitted, however, that he conferred with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. But, they said that nothing was confirmed.

In the interim, the Tourism Ministry is thinking of allowing hotel chains that run casinos overseas to launch gambling rooms in Eilat. Or, the second option is a casino is introduced on Red Sea resort city’s current airport site. The airport is already scheduled for annihilation and is likely to be replaced by part of a novel hotel complex. If the same gets green signal, an Eilat casino may even take many years from present to open. The police along with the Tax Authority would oversee it then.

Netanyahu and his wife share a close connection with Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas gambling mogul. Adelson not only owns casinos worldwide and provides funding for election campaigns of US politicians, but runs Israel Hayom - the pro-Netanyahu daily as well. The former finance minister espoused an Eilat casino opening in 2003.

He said that they looked forward to emulating Las Vegas in Eilat. Eilat, unlike the bouncy resort town in the US, had numerous splendid beaches. And although, the term casino did not sound very good, almost 83% of all revenue in Vegas came from family vacationers, while only 17% was realized from gambling.

Tourism leaders want a professionally run casino supervised by the government

Israel tourism Minister Yariv Levin
Israel tourism Minister Yariv Levin

On the contrary, tourism leaders fear crime. Levin said that they would only extend a supporting hand once it is ensured that Eilat would be safe and not become a crime center. Eilat was in need of such an attraction that could bring an augment in the count of its tourists while creating new jobs. The present rate of tourism in Eilat could not even fill the new airport under construction.

At present, the focus is on finding a site and alongside, on estimating the costs and consequences that tourism would handle. The process of feasibility is also considering making the best endeavors to avert money laundering.

Nevertheless, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, the police, and the Social Affairs Ministry are showing firm opposition against a casino opening. Shas member and Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen affirmed that Israel casino proposals that were likely to result in a social disaster needed to cease. Development of a casino could mean giving a buzz to people to gamble which could destroy many families and could even spoil them on financial grounds. Succinctly, casinos called for crime.

Back to 2003

Earlier, the law was formed with terms for government supervision. Avraham Shochat (former finance minister) was in favor of a casino, which could be supervised by the national lottery commission Mifal Hapayis. Nevertheless, this legislation was not approved.

The former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (murdered in 1995) had a meeting with Martin Schlaff (an Austrian businessman) and he suggested that the casino should be operated in Israel. But, the ex-politician Moshe Shahal was of the view that the international companies must vie in a bidding process. Schlaff moved ahead with the idea of casino gambling outside territorial waters of Israel on a ship in 2002. But, this was scrapped later.

Reports say that legal gambling was running along with illegal gambling with match fixing, bingo, and casinos. Israelis were addicted to the same in a large count and this field generated revenues of around 15 billion shekels each year. Since, illegal gambling is a major source of crime due to money laundering of organized crime and violence related to it. Thus, even a legal casino may fail to stop or cut the risk of illegal gambling activity.

A decision is yet to be made.

Author: Jeff Grant (info)


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