Carlton on His Time with Israeli Authorities: No Big Dea

15 January 2007

Victor Chandler International (VCI) chief executive Michael Carlton spent several hours answering questions of Israeli authorities on Wednesday leaving the Internet gambling industry wondering if Israel has joined the crackdown on Internet gambling.

Initial media reports said Carlton was detained early in the morning and spent two hours helping the authorities with their inquiries before being released and allowed to return via London to VCI headquarters in Gibraltar.

Carlton attempted to dispell rumors in a prepared statement on Friday, saying that he was not arrested, but invited by the authorities to discuss issues relating to the company's operations in Israel.

"I traveled to Israel for a preplanned meeting with government ministers, at their invitation, regarding licensing arrangements in the country," Carlton said. "Before leaving I was invited to spend two hours with the Israeli authorities answering their questions regarding online gambling in Israel."

VCI advertises in and accepts bets from Israel, but gambling in the country is otherwise overseen by a state-run monopoly.

VCI secured its place in the Israeli market last year, however, by challenging the monopoly; it launched an aggressive marketing campaign in Israel, and has enjoyed success in the country, according to The Independent. The company also runs a Hebrew Web site designed to draw in punters.

"Israel is currently a fraction of the Victor Chandler business," Carlton said. "However, we are keen to work with the authorities in Israel going forward and have already opened discussions with Knesset members."

Israel has taken a hard line on Internet gambling in recent weeks. Local skill games operator Interlogic, which runs, was notified by Israeli authorities in December that its operation of a real-money gambling site for backgammon constituted a criminal offense. Additionally, Major General Yohanan Danino, head of the Police Investigations and Intelligence unit, in December warned credit card companies operating in Israel against continued handling of gambling money deposits.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.