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How will the blocking sites wave in Israel affect online poker?

On October 15, 2018, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled in favor of the Israeli State Prosecutor's Office allowing the blocking of gaming sites in the country. How might this judge's decision affect the fate of online poker in Israel?

How will the blocking sites wave in Israel affect online poker?

Back in 1979, the government passed a law prohibiting most types of gambling except for lotteries and sports betting (these last ones are only engaged by state monopolies, for example, Mifal Hapayis controls the lottery). There are no special acts regulating online gambling in Israel, but the authorities are trying to enforce the old rules Despite this, big names like 888 Holdings, Playtech PLC, William Hill, and Ladbrokes Coral Group operated in the country.

But three years ago, a special force aimed at "tightening the screws of the gambling business" started to operate in the country.

What has happened in the last years in the online gambling scene in Israel?

  • In 2015 the General Attorney released a statement of the development of measures against offshore operators, whose activities in the country were considered illegal.
  • The Bank of Israel recommended to all financial and credit institutions not to process payments to gambling sites.
  • In 2016, the Jerusalem District Court recognized poker as gambling, and one year later the Tel Aviv Court extended this decision to poker tournaments. For participating in such games, you could get a one-year sentence in prison and if you were organizing it up to three years.
  • Poker rooms such as PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888Poker, and Unibet left the country.
  • In 2017, a law was passed allowing to block websites used to commit serious crimes such as pedophilia, terrorism, or drugs selling. This law has been used to block dozens of websites. 
  • On October 15, 2018, this law was extended to block gaming sites.

European players are familiar with this practice: Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Greece also have their own lists of blocked domains. In Israel, this event was considered by many as a waste of time and money. The lawyer Jonathan Klinger, an attorney for Israel's Digital Right Movement believes that the prosecution should look for those guilty of violating the law and not block websites. 

What are the prospects of online poker in Israel?

Israeli poker players have already found ways to continue playing online after the major poker rooms left the country. In the near future, the most likely is the country will block poker sites, beginning with famous brands that still accept Israelis. Some of them can leave the poker market without waiting for this, as PokerStars did before. When this happens, the popularity of small poker rooms like GoldPokerPro, Royal Diamond Poker, Poker717, and ClubPoker will start to grow. And when they block these, most players will already know how to bypass it.

It is quite possible that the next year may be the beginning of the rise of Israeli poker rooms. Worldpokerdeals offers the best deals in all of them.

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Vargoso 29.10.18
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