o start a series of discussions over the next two months, the meeting was called by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While land-based and online gaming remains banned in Israel, an underground market exists and it has been estimated to generates more than $3.6bn a year. The idea to lift the ban has been floated on several occasions but has historically been resisted by religious and security authorities. But the Prime Minister is now keen to re-examine the potential.
The preferred location for a casino is Eilat, a southern Israeli port and resort town on the Red Sea, which welcomes thousands of tourists each year. One site being considered for a casino resort is the town centre airport that is due to be cleared once a new, larger airport opens outside the city. Alternatively, hotels could receive licenses to include casinos.
“We think this can bring Eilat to a different place – It has amazing potential. We are examining this very seriously. The idea if not only to establish a casino, but a large entertainment complex that will launch Eilat into a different league,” said Levin.
In addition to the new airport, plans are underway to construct a large convention centre, which will host corporate events and music concerts. The stated aim is to attract private investment to build hotels, with the state responsible for development and security of the complex. A special police unit is also planned to keep organized crime away from casinos.
The committee meeting was attended by representatives of all relevant agencies, including the Ministries of Transportation, Justice, Treasury, Public Security and Welfare, as well as the Tax Authority, and it was agreed that each would examine the plans ahead of the next scheduled meeting.