Operating any form of poker in Israel is still illegal. The game is popular, but not allowed legally. That’s why Sharren Haskel from the Likud party now wants to change this by introducing a new bill in the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body.
The Legal Status of Poker in Israel
It’s not difficult to play poker in Israel. Though the government considers the activity illegal, a stance backed by the Israel Supreme Court, the country has a vibrant population of gamers, and Israeli poker players are known worldwide.
Timur Margolin wins his first WSOP gold bracelet and $507,274 in Event #43 of the 2018 WSOP, $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em. Margolin placed second in this event in 2015, the last year he played it. https://t.co/ROOUtWkelv pic.twitter.com/fYshkex0VU
— WSOP (@WSOP) June 25, 2018
Just this year, three nationals managed to secure a gold bracelet from the now-concluded World Series of Poker (WSOP), with Timur Margolin distinguishing himself in the €,100 MONSTER STACK No-Limit Hold’em.
From the online players to the gamers who play in secrecy, poker in Israel is developing quickly. So much that Sharren Haskel from the Likud party has introduced a bill to the legislative body, the Knesset. The bill will push for the acceptance and recognition of poker as a “game of skill” rather than what is presently purported to be, “a game of chance.”
A similar debate rages on in the United States. Like at home, Israel’s Poker Players Association (PPA) has already tried to address the issue in court, earning more privileges for players from the country. Nearly a decade ago, the PPA wanted to host tournaments in Israel, bringing international hosts to organize tournaments for real money.
However, this was met with a stern opposition with the Supreme Court stepping in to ban any such developments from taking place. The PPA then mustered scientific evidence seeking council from Professor Ehud Lehrer who taught at the University of Tel Aviv and is a distinguished mathematician.
Mr. Lehrer presented his statistically-backed argument that poker could not be ruled out against, citing “game of chance” as evidence, as there was the data to prove that the game is actually one of skill. Despite this, the Supreme Court ruled against the activity.
New Hope for Poker
In light of the international fame that has fallen on Israeli players, however, the authorities have decided to also levy players and their proceedings with the same tax they do business.
Regarding the specific bill that Haskel has proposed, the news was first reported by the Jerusalem Post, a respected Israeli national media outlet. One of the arguments cited in favor of poker in that article was the opinion of a Supreme Court Judge, Neal Hendel.
The fact that the players go to contests and tournaments year after year strengthens the conclusion that it is not a game of luck – Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel
Today, passing the bill seems more likely than ever before. With the international profile garnered by Israeli’s players, there is an even stronger lobby, which can support the endorsement of the game. The support from Mr. Hendel is also important, as it builds a convincing case for giving poker the legal backing it needs.
Legalizing the game in the country would mean the re-introduction of important international companies focused on poker, most notably PokerStars, which is one of the most frequented card room online by Israeli players as it stands.