In the country of Israel, poker gambling has been illegal for quite some time. Yet, a recent Supreme Court outcome redefines the ruling behind what type of game poker actually is. Now, it’s considered to be a game based on skill, rather than one solely based on luck. Because of that ruling, a bill has been proposed to have legal poker tournaments running throughout Israel.
The bill – which was proposed by Likud MK Sharren Haskel – would go on to remove the game of poker from the country’s list of illegal gambling activities. Should the bill go on to pass through legislation, poker fans can proceed to play the game without living under the threat of being sent to prison for up to a year. Additionally, poker tournament operators currently face up to three years in prison for organising such events, but that could all be pushed to the wayside.
Poker remains illegal throughout the country for now, but multiple underground poker tournaments go on. This just shows how popular poker is with the Israeli community, with people disregarding the law to participate in tournaments.
Numerous attempts in years past have been made to legalise the game in Israel, and Haskel is bringing it round for another attempt. Yet, could he have gained an upper hand this time? Because the country’s Supreme Court determined that “poker players are sportsmen and not gamblers”, Haskel said, “they should be permitted to practice” the game and enter tournaments on home ground.
The Community Welcomes the News
With the announcement by the Supreme Court and Haskel’s more-recent news, the poker community within Israel was overjoyed. Then again, why wouldn’t they be? It’s a bit more freedom to engage in a game that they enjoy.
So, what would happen if Haskel’s proposed bill becomes law in Israel?
First of all, it will define the legal status of poker itself and also go ahead to outline solutions for certain tax issues. Poker players have been plagued with several uncertainties throughout the years when it comes to accessing the game elsewhere. Some people are paying huge six-figure taxes on their winnings. The new bill would regulate the industry though and allow for domestic and international tournaments to take place.
As it stands at the moment, any player who does declare their income as “lotteries, prizes and gambling” in Israel, is charged a tax rate of 35%.
A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has given the authorities sole right to take issue with illegal online gambling platforms and proceed to block Israeli citizens from being able to access them. Since that law was introduced, a large number of sites have been blocked and blacklisted via ISPs. The operators of such sites do not face prosecution though, and because of this, can set up alternative sites, using other domains.
Whether or not Haskel’s bill will allow for many of these rules to be overturned and provide Israel’s poker community with the game they all love, remains to be seen.