Expansion in Israe

26 August 2004

The Israeli Sports Betting Board (ISBB) has made its services available through the Internet, and mobile and iTV wagering could soon follow. Another group based in the country has been taking bets online since March. Yes, the age of interactive betting has arrived in Israel.

The ISBB's site, Toto.org.il, provided sports and betting related information before introducing wagering services in July. The site now allows odds and pools betting via a platform powered by EssNet of Sweden. The services are not accessible to customers outside Israel, however, because Israeli law prohibits cross-border betting. Revenue from online betting will be used to fund sports and education.

Said Shaul Schneider, director general and CEO of the ISBB, "Internet plays a major role in modern life, and is the best method for reaching new customers."

Sports betting has been permitted in Israel for awhile, but not until recently could bets be made through a remote platform. The country officially entered the Internet gambling era five months ago with the launch of a sports betting site from Winner Online. The site, developed by Tel Aviv-based Zone4Play, is available in Hebrew text, with Russian and Arabic sites planned.

For now, sports betting is the only type of gambling permitted online is Israel. Lotteries are legal, but the country's lottery operator, Mifal Hapais, has not taken its products online.

The next expansion of gambling is likely to entail sports betting through interactive television. Israeli ministers will meet on Sept. 5 to discuss whether it should be permitted, and if so, how it should be licensed.

Interactive channels are not the only means of potential expansion. Israeli legislators are showing an inclination toward regulating forms of gambling that are currently prohibited. The government is reviewing a plan to establish the country's first casino (to be located in Eilat) and appears to be warming to the idea of gambling as a way to boost revenues allocated toward social projects.

Horse racing could soon become a reality as well. The country's social economic cabinet last month approved a proposal to legalize horse racing and betting at new hippodromes.

Legislation permitting horse racing has not yet been drafted, but the plan is to allocate proceeds from racing to the development of infrastructures in the first two regions to receive the hippodromes: Gilboa and Negev. The proposal also includes encouraging investments in horse rearing stables, veterinary hospitals, riding schools and tourism.

As with iTV betting, online horse race wagering still requires approval from the government.

Bradley Vallerius

Articles by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials. Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

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