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Poker News

Poker in Israel Close to Becoming Legal

Written By: Maya Michaels | November 7, 2018 | Posted In Poker News

Although poker is illegal in Israel, it’s a big deal in this country, played usually in clubs and apartments in the form of “underground games”.

So far, poker players were facing a year in prison for the first offence while the organizers of poker tournaments were facing three years of imprisonment, but all this is likely to change in the near future if a bill proposed by Likud party member Sharren Haskel is passed into law.

In the past, poker was considered gambling rather than a game of skill, and therefore it wasn’t permitted. The Supreme Court recently ruled that poker is a game of skill, not luck and now, Haskel’s bill is intended to legislate the ruling.

“The fact that the players go to contests and tournaments year after year strengthens the conclusion that it is not a game of luck,” Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel explained.

The ruling makes poker’s designation as gambling unjustifiable and therefore opens the door for legislation. The poker’s classification could potentially result in the creation of a new poker market in Israel.The bill would regulate the Israeli Poker Player Association and empower it to organize both national and international tournaments, while the Finance Ministry would have overall control over poker in Israel and would tax earnings.

Israel has no casinos but runs a state-run lottery and sports betting. That didn’t stop Israeli poker players to make it to the big league entering the global high-level tournament scene. Amir Lehavot is the most successful poker pro from Israel in the terms of winnings with more than $5.7 million in tournament prize winnings. He won a WSOP bracelet in 2011, and made it to the final table of the main event in 2013.

Timur Margolin of Ramle, with earnings of $1,742,590, is another top Israeli player who won Monster Stack 2018 and took home $153,000 at the latest World Series of Poker. His career earning have amounted to more than $1.7 million. Other notable players coming from Israel are Zvi Stern, Rafi Amit and Asi Moshe.

Israeli poker players have so far won a total of 12 WSOP bracelet wins and their continual successes are the main reason why Supreme Court changed its ruling. If legislators in the country proceed with the online poker bill, poker could be made legal in Israel before the end of 2019.

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