[bsa_pro_ad_space id=1 link=same] [bsa_pro_ad_space id=2]

Skip to Content


Israel – Tourism Minister proposes four-casino compound in Eilat

By - 18 February 2016

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given the clearest sign yet that casinos are heading to Israel’s tourist city of Eilat, seemingly offering his support to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin’s proposal to develop a strip with four casinos.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the casino initiative was needed ‘to save Eilat and create thousands of new jobs.’

Discussions on transforming the tourist coastal city of Eilat into the Las Vegas of the Red Sea have been going on since October 2015.  Back then Prime Minister entrusted his Tourism Minister to lead an inter-ministerial team to research the feasibility of establishing casinos in Eilat.

Mr. Levin looked at two options; firstly to allow existing hoteliers to add gaming floors and secondly to build a purpose built resort casino on the site of the soon-to-be-replaced airport. Having carried out his research, the Tourism Minister now wants to add a third possibility, that of developing a ‘casino compound’ consisting of two to four casinos at the airport site. He said that this is the only plan that would prove sustainable.

Highlighting the success of the new casino sector in Singapore, he wants to see a similar model introduced in Eilat whereby the casinos are backed up by larger-scale development, including hotels, entertainment complexes, amusement parks, and dining and retail areas. Unlike in markets such as Las Vegas, the casinos would be housed in separate buildings from the hotels.

Mr. Levin said the casinos would take up only a small part of the entire complex and would be operated by private entities but under tight regulation by the state.

The suggestion now is that Israelis should be allowed gamble to prevent them from gambling abroad or on illegal websites.

Rather than an outright ban, the Tourism Ministry wants to restrict Israeli citizens from gambling by charging entry fees or limiting their play in time or in money.

The initiative has sparked disapproval from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who said: “The establishment of a casino in Israel is both morally and practically unacceptable. Casinos are against the values of our state; they serve the strong and weaken the weak. The emotional and physical damage they inflict will be covered by all of us. Israel is not Las Vegas, and it will not become Las Vegas.

The Tourism Minister reacted angrily to the claim. “The righteous indignation of the Habayit Hayehudi members, who have chosen to ignore the fact that illegal gambling is rampant in Israel, shows their lack of seriousness,” he said. “I expect the cabinet ministers to deal with the issues that are germane to their ministry rather than meddle in an issue they are clueless about and on whose details they have no command. Habayit Hayehudi will single-handedly bring about Eilat’s demise.”

Mr. Levin stressed: “I have no doubt that the way to help Eilat economically and to increase the number of tourists is by means of casinos. There is no doubt that a casino also has very serious social potential and if we go ahead with this, we have to make sure that this is done with restrictions and supervision to prevent the casino from becoming an incubator for crime.”

Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, who has long been a financial backer of Israel’s Prime Minister, has already said he isn’t interested in developing a casino in Eilat. In 1998 Casinos Austria International opened a casino in Jericho, in Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, which was closed just six years later at the height of the conflicts.

Share via
Copy link