Feasibility studies conducted in December by the Israeli Finance Ministry and the Tourism Ministry confirm the envisaged casino sector is capable of generating $US336 million in annual revenue. That number though is estimated to reach US$500 million after several years of operation, according to the study noted by G3 Newswire.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin wants approval from the government for a strip with four casinos, similar to Las Vegas. Levin fully supported Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s initiative to set up a casino industry in Israel. In a September 2015 statement he said he had no doubt that a casino would help the country economically as well as increase the number of tourists.
The Tourism Ministry believes a casino industry would attract 2.1 million visitors, with an average spend of $160 per person. And that 284,000 foreign tourists would be attracted by the development and make the annual trek to Eilat. The coastal city is a popular resort and busy port located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, and a major tourist attraction. It estimates that 11,000 new jobs would be created. The increase in tourist traffic would mean a 10 percent boost for overnight stays in Eilat’s hotels, to 230,000 a year. Based on 13 countries surveyed, the Tourism Ministry estimates that after a few years of operation, revenue from gaming has the potential to reach US$500 million. The taxes generated as a result would depend on what the government decides to tax the sector. According to the Ministry, “This income will be significantly higher than the social costs involved in making casino gambling legal in Israel and in Eilat.”
The addition of casinos in the country could create the potential for gambling addiction, according to the Ministry who estimate the number affected to be in the region of 300,000. However, it said, the negative issues would be manageable and, “A great deal of knowledge exists for reducing negative side effects.” The Ministry added it would take an estimated four to eight years after an agreement had been reached to write and pass the legislation and choose the operators and complete construction of the casinos.
This isn’t the first time legalizing casino gambling in Israel has been contemplated. During the 1990’s casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s long-time backer, hit a wall of resistance from religious groups as well as Israeli security forces, after expressing interest in opening a Sands casino in the country. Opened in 1998, The Intercontinental Hotel Jericho’ and Oasis Casino next door were hoped to transform the city of 22,000 in Jericho into a resort destination, While the hotel remains open, the casino, which for security reasons was closed by the Israeli army in 2000, remains shuttered. Prior to that, two attempts by then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to open casinos failed.