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Picture of Casino du Liban in Jounieh, Lebanon

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Gambling Law in the Middle East

by: World Casino Directory staff
Wednesday Apr 16th, 2014

Middle East Gambling Laws

The Middle East sits where 3 large land continents: Africa, Asia and Europe converge. Middle East is also known as West Asia and the countries of Middle East are all part of Asia. Even though the countries that come under Middle East are often debated, yet the various countries that are inclusive are Egypt, Israel, UAE, Saudi, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya. The most frequented city of Middle East is Dubai.

Gambling in Middle East

There are 2 countries in the great expansion of Middle East that have casinos in them. However there are no countries that offer Pari-Mutuel facilities in Middle East and so by the same coin, you won't find any Racinos in the Middle East either

The largest casino in Middle East is located in Jounieh, Lebanon. However the largest number of casinos is in Israel. Israel has 4 casinos and 63 slots. Let us have a look at the gambling law prevalent in Israel.

Gambling Law in Israel

Legalizing of gambling is yet to be finalized by the legislators in Israel. However there are raids on illegal gambling joints in the country. One of the largest gambling establishments, the Mifal Hapayis Lottery Authority, has 500 slot machines operating in restaurants and pubs. All their gaming machines are authorized by the Ministry of Finance.

As per the contents of a report, there are no less than 150 legal casinos that are operating in Israel. They are functioning in the food and entertainment establishments under the purview or members of Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.

During the last elections about 3 years ago, there were more than thirty political parties who contested for seats in the Knesset. One such party is The Casino Party. The Casino Party had a very lucrative ground during the election and that was the promise to legalize casino gambling in Israel. The reasons for such legalization were:

1) To compete with the extremely successful Palestinian casino in Jericho, this was to be followed by another in Tull-Karm (the Palestinian casino is closed now)
2) To keep the Israelis' hard-earned money in Israeli hands, which could help fund various social events (like the lottery does, at present)
3) To provide people with job opportunities, and undoubtedly other rationalizations. But, the arguments against such legalization were also quite powerful, and they were:
  a) Casino gambling is very closely associated with organized crime—Israel should not assist Mafioso's with another means of making money actively.
  b) Gambling is addictive in nature. It has the possibility of creating another ill of society, and
  c) Legalizing it somewhat "koshers" an otherwise dishonest means of making money. This reduces the difference between casino gambling and someone ripping people off at three-card-Monty (which is illegal in many areas where gambling has been legitimized).

Jewish Traditional beliefs and their opinion on gambling:

According to the Talmud, the following people are invalid to serve as witnesses and certainly not as judges:

1) Dice players--i.e., people who live off winnings from gambling
2) People who lend out money on interest
3) Pigeon raisers (this is because of two primary reasons:
  a) Pigeon raisers train their pigeons to attract other people's pigeons--even if the other person only captured pigeons and never paid for them, still it is dishonest
  b) Pigeon raisers use them to race against other pigeons--another case of forbidden gambling)
4) Those who conduct business with yields of the Sabbatical year (which has a certain degree of sanctity to it, and is forbidden for commercial use, but is rather to be declared ownerless and free to all)


Only exception to the above list is Rabbi Yehudah. This is applicable only if they have no other occupation other than this. That is if they earn an honest livelihood by some other means, they are still valid to serve as witnesses and judges. The lottery winners are permitted because those who indulge in buying of lottery tickets know that if they lose, the money would go to various social programs and hence they go ahead in this with this knowledge.

Another interesting distinction is the game where victory relies purely on luck and there is no skill involved. For instance the slot machine, the money gambled is relinquished at the very beginning of the game, so that the winnings can not be classified as theft.

If the participants are also depending on their skill, (for example in Backgammon, that involves skill, a little bit of luck, and the doubling cube--outright gambling) it means that the players are not giving up their money completely in the case of a loss. A person who plays backgammon always puts down the money because he thinks he's more capable than his opponent, and even if he should lose, will always feel that he was cheated. So it's a problem of theft if the opponent makes use of the earnings.

Middle East Gaming Conclusion

Gambling is much prevalent in the Middle East. Though the laws in some of the countries are quite stringent yet the casinos and the gaming machines here are much frequented by the rich sheikhs and tourists alike.

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