Gambling is tightly regulated in Israel and mostly falls under the control of the government. Traditional land-based casinos are prohibited but cruise ships are able to host gambling at certain times each day. The government hosts a national lottery which consists of a few games while another government entity offers a limited form of sports betting.
Israeli betting sites are officially outlawed as well. No gambling websites may operate from within Israel and offer their services to citizens. Of course, there are plenty of betting websites located in other countries that are happy to take Israelis despite the government’s anti-gambling stance. Some sites even offer their services in Hebrew.
This is a list of offshore gaming sites that still accept customers from Israel. The Israeli government may contend that these sites are breaking the law, but the response from sites such as these is that they are operating in full compliance of the laws where they are headquartered.
The majority of online casinos offer no support of Hebrew or the new shekel, but neither of these issues should post a major problem. Almost every site supports English and they can all perform currency exchanges to change your shekel deposit into US dollars or Euros. The hardest part you’ll have is finding a working deposit method since the government takes steps to restrict financial transactions to known gambling sites.
Your best bet in getting started is to just visit one of the sites from above and sign up for an account. If they accept Israelis, they will have everything in place that you need to get started. This will include instructions for making a deposit and the ability to convert shekels into some other currency.
Defeating Internet Censorship
The Israeli government ordered internet service providers to block access to certain betting websites in 2005. If you try to visit an offshore Israeli online casino and are unable to access it, you can thank your government for knowing better than you what you should view.
Fortunately, the internet filter is fairly easy to defeat. All you need is a subscription to a VPN service and you can easily get around any blocks. If you run a search for “VPN Israel” you’ll find plenty of options. Once you’re set up with a VPN, you should have no problem accessing your favorite sites.
Israeli Gaming Laws Explained
Israel does not have gambling-specific legislation like most other countries. The entire basis for the ban on most forms of gambling can be found in Israeli Penal Law 5737 – 1977 (see page 73 here). The law doesn’t just ban the organization of gambling, it also prohibits the act of participating. Anyone caught playing in a prohibited game may be imprisoned for up to a year.
There are only three forms of gambling that may take place in Israel:
- Gambling on authorized cruise ships
- Participation in the state lottery
- Participation in state-sponsored sports betting
There was considerable confusion on the status of online gambling up until 2005. The laws on the books didn’t specifically mention the internet but they could also be interpreted to include online betting. In 2005, the Attorney General made it clear when he issued a ruling that all Israel gambling sites were illegal and ordered them to cease operations. The Attorney General also ordered banking institutions to stop processing financial transactions to and from online betting sites.
Later, the government began an internet censorship program to block access to betting websites. These filters have been largely unsuccessful and Israelis report that the blocks are easy to defeat. Anyone wanting to gamble online badly enough will eventually find a way through.
Mifal HaPayis is the sole authorized provider of the national lottery of Israel. It hosts a variety of lottery-style games including a big drawing held twice a week, various scratch card games, smaller “pick 3″ drawings and a keno-style game. Here’s a look at the main lotto games in Israel.
Primary Lottery: The primary lottery doesn’t have a particular name – it’s just the lottery. This one is drawn twice a week and consists of each player choosing six numbers between 1 and 37 plus the “Chazak,” which is basically Israel’s version of the Powerball. The grand prize winner must match all six numbers in the correct order AND get the Chazak correct.
The top prize is always worth at least a few million shekels and sometimes grows north of ?15,000,000. There are also smaller prizes for matching six numbers without the Chazak, 5 numbers with the Chazak, 5 numbers without and so on down to matching jut three numbers for a small prize.
Chance: This game uses a deck of cards that contain only the cards 7 through Ace of each suit. The numbers 2-6 are stripped from the deck. The player chooses one card from each suit for a total of four picks. The lottery then draws one card from each suit. Varying prizes are paid out if the player matches 1, 2, 3 or 4 cards.
Keno: This is a pretty standard keno game. The player picks 7, 8 or 9 numbers out of a total of 70. The lottery then draws 17 numbers at random. Prizes are paid for getting matches. The more matches you get, the larger the prize. Small prizes are also awarded for getting zero matches.
123: In 123, the player chooses a number between 000 and 999. The lottery also picks a number between 000 and 999. There are two different ways to play this game. The player can go for all-or-nothing and get a 600:1 payout for guessing the exact number. The player may also go with a different prize scheme with smaller prizes for getting 1, 2 or all 3 digits correct.
Scratch Cards: These are your typical instant-win scratch tickets that you can get any lottery retailer. Buy the ticket, scratch it off and hope for a prize.
The lottery was first held in 1951 as a method to attract funding for the construction of a Tel Aviv hospital. The project was a major success and the lottery has continued to grow over the years. Today, the lottery funds a variety of charitable projects in fields such as healthcare, education, parks and sports.
Sports Betting in Israel
The only form of sports betting legal in Israel is what is authorized by the Israel Sports Betting Board. The Winner brand is the largest legal operation in the nation and offers regular sports wagers on a variety of sporting events.
Winner also operates an online sportsbook that accepts real-money wagers on the most popular sports. The selection is somewhat limited and the odds aren’t always the best, but many seem to like Winner nonetheless due to its support of the Hebrew language and simple deposit methods. Proceeds from Winner are devoted to charitable causes with an emphasis on sports.