Is Legalized Poker on the cards for Israel?


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The Israeli Supreme Court recently ruled that poker is a game of skill, not luck. Keeping the momentum, Likud Party's Sharren Haskel introduced a bill to the Knesset that would recognize poker as a skill-based game, allowing it to circumvent the country's strict anti-gambling laws.

Strict laws on gambling in Israel

Israel has a difficult approach to gambling and in 2017 has imposed a total ban on slot machines and horse racing. Currently, the country allows only two state lotteries, the national lottery (Mifal Hapayis) and a weekly lottery of the sports betting board (Toto).

Needless to say, there are no casinos on the land situated on the southeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and definitely without poker. This is due to a conservative view of the game, which sees the pastime as a tax on the poor, and how Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said a few years ago: "Israel's weak and poor are being sold illusions and false hopes. everyday."

Legality of Poker

Strict rules apply to those who break the law and anyone who has encountered gambling in poker can go up to a year behind bars, while for those who organize poker tournaments the sentence increases for up to three years. In fact, however, Israel has a thriving poker scene, with thousands of Israelis playing online or traveling to events around the world. Three of the top five WSOP Europe events this year, for example, were all won by Israeli players.

Decision of the Supreme Court

In 2009, the Israel Poker Players Association petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court for Texas Holdem tournaments to be allowed in the country. Unfortunately, his efforts to show poker as a game of skill rather than chance were not accepted, and the court rejected his claims about the well-known card game. Recently, however, Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel made a positive decision regarding poker as a game of skill, and wrote:

"The fact that players go to championships and tournaments year after year strengthens the conclusion that it is not a game of chance."

Without wasting time, Likud party member Sharren Haskel introduced a bill calling for poker to be treated as a game of skill, and poker tournaments allowed in Israel. The piece of legislation is designed to enshrine the Supreme Court's decision in law. The Israeli Ministry of Finance would then be in charge of regulating and governing the sector in perspective and, of course, collecting the fiscal gains.

Will it gain enough support?

Commenting on his account, Mr. Haskel said the Supreme Court ruled that poker is a skill-based game and not a form of gambling. In addition, he stated that poker players should therefore "be allowed to practice on their national territory", allowing them to gain more praise for their country in the international arena.

"Israeli athletes bring respect and pride to the state in international competitions," Haskel explained.

Mr. Haskel's legislation has now been tabled for consideration in the Knesset, but it remains to be seen how much support it will gain in the country's legislative body. Meanwhile, there seems to be little weakening in Israeli lawmakers' attitude to other types of gambling, which are still banned in the country.

Last month, for example, a judge in the Tel Aviv District ruled that three gambling sites should be barred from reaching Israeli customers (, and Ironically, however, Israel has become a center for international gaming companies to establish offices, with Ladbrokes Coral, 888 and Playtech among the countless companies that have already done so.


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