PokerStars Pull Out of Israel

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PokerStars has withdrawn their real money online poker offering in Israel with immediate effecting citing a ‘commercial assessment’ as the reason, and parent company Amaya Gaming hold their AGM behind closed doors.

When PokerStars launched their online poker product in 2001, few people would have expected it to have grown into the 800 pound Gorilla that currently makes every other online poker site look like a bunch of monkeys.

One of those ‘few’ people would have been the founder Isai Scheinberg, and so it’s not without a sense of irony, that the man who was born in Israel will today hear the news that PokerStars will no longer offer real money online poker in his country of birth.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a complete shock – although that’s scant comfort for the professional grinders who have just heard they are out of a job. Many of whom will be in the World Series of Poker (WSOP), over 7,000 miles away from home, and with no way to withdraw their money from the site.

Israel is a ‘grey’ market for online gambling. Many experts will give you a professional description of what the term ‘grey’ means, but I’m not one of those writers. To me, ‘grey’ means trouble.

Gambling is mostly illegal in Israel, but there is legislation in place that allows Israeli citizens to bet on a National Lottery, run by Mifal Hapayis, and sports betting regulated by the Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling.

PokerStars has been able to offer an online poker product to Israeli citizens because online poker didn’t exist when the Israeli Penal Law 5737 outlawed most forms of gambling in 1977. I know it’s not a very solid argument, and one that PokerStars themselves seems to have realised is a little flimsy.

The largest online poker room in the world said they made their decision following a ‘commercial assessment’ of the market. The block was immediate. The free to play model is still in operation.

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