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New Legislation Would Make Poker Legal In Israel

Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel Rules Poker Is A Game Of Skill

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Poker is illegal in Israel. Those caught playing in a poker game face up to a year in prison for the first offense, and those caught organizing a game could be locked up for as many as three.

A new bill introduced by Likud party member Sharren Haskel, however, is looking to change that.

The bill follows a recent ruling by Israel Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel, who stated in his decision that poker was a game of skill.

“The fact that the players go to contests and tournaments year after year strengthens the conclusion that it is not a game of luck,” he wrote.

If considered by the Knesset, the bill would allow the Israeli Poker Players Association to organize poker games, and authorize the Finance Ministry to regulate taxes.

There are no casinos in Israel, and most forms of gambling are outlawed, although there is state-run lottery and sports betting. In 2015, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposed the idea of authorizing a casino in the city of Eliat, which is home to a port that already launches gambling cruises into international waters.

Amir Lehavot is the most successful poker pro, in terms of winnings, to come out of Israel. The Miami Beach resident won a WSOP bracelet in 2011, and made the final table of the main event in 2013. He now has more than $5.7 million in career live tournament earnings.

Other notable Israeli poker pros include Rafi Amit, Zvi Stern, Timur Margolin, and Asi Moshe. Israel has 12 WSOP bracelet wins in total, which is good for eighth among all countries.