The biggest online poker website in the world, PokerStars has pulled out of Israel from June 30. PokerStars has now followed in the footsteps of several other online poker operators such as partypoker, 888poker and UniBet poker.
Amaya Gaming, the parent company that owns PokerStars made this announcement via email to its players located in Israel. It also stated that players having tournament tickets and StarsCoins can convert them to real cash.
In a statement, Amaya Gaming said,
Our management team regularly reviews our operations market-by- market to assess commercial opportunities and business risks for our brands. Following a recent review, we regret to inform you that we have decided to stop offering real money games to players who are physically located in, or have a registered address in, Israel [as of] June 27, 2016
Founded by the Israeli Scheinberg family, PokerStars entered Israel in 2001 and since then had turned into one of the biggest real cash online poker rooms in the world. Although gambling is prohibited in Israel, online gaming operators have been taking advantage of the lack of legislation specifically banning online gaming. The Israeli government has not forced the issue during the past few years and has turned a blind eye to online gambling operations. However the government has changed its stance over the past year and has started to crack down on the online gaming industry.
Last year the country's State Prosecutor evaluated the possibility of taking action against a major credit card provider in Israel for processing payments related to offshore online gambling operators. Early this year, the legality of online gaming in Israel became further untenable after the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the game of Texas hold'em was a game of chance not skill and was therefore prohibited as per law.
Last week, the country's banking regulator issued an order requiring credit institutions to decline all transaction that relate to online gaming. This ruling could have made it finally clear to PokerStars that online gaming was no longer feasible in Israel. All these signs indicate that online gaming has now entered the radar of Israeli regulators and barring new legislation authorizing online poker, it would be impossible to continue operations in Israel.
Another reason for PokerStars withdrawing from Israel is because the company is looking to avoid the bad actor clauses in gaming regulations for running gray-market operations. Any form of blacklisting anywhere in the world is likely to jeopardize its license in the state of New Jersey which it received recently. There are now several states in American such as California, Pennsylvania and New York who are on the verge of passing legislation to legalize gambling and PokerStars wants to make sure it is on firm ground to enter these markets.