For the first time in Israel – blocking Internet gambling websites

On July 2010 an article was published which received no proper attention so far – for the first time the Israeli police ordered Internet Service providers to block access to websites. The news was posted on ‘Haaretz’ websites in Hebrew and English as well as on ‘Globes‘, but without significant reference, if any, at other news sites.

Police ordered all ISPs to block access in a number of gambling sites, most of them abroad, which are suspected to be owned by Israelis: http://hebrew.vcpoker.com, http://www.victorchandler.com, http://keshcard.com, http://www.stanjames.com and http://thespinroom.com.

In practice, most of the sites are part of http://www.victorchandler.com (active in several languages including Hebrew) or link directly to it. This site indicates that there are different products that have designated URLs: VC Casino, VC Live Casino, VC Games and VC Poker. However, these designated pages actually redirect to http://www.victorchandler.com.

The police instructed Israeli ISPs to block the IP addresses of relevant sites and asked to respond within 48 hours. On the other hand, the ISPs argued for lack of actual ability to block IP addresses and lack of authority for such blocking. Indeed, with the announcement of this news, reference started in various forums, including tips on how to bypass the blockage over those web sites.

This instruction of the police is not the beginning of a move against online gambling in Israel, but for now the culmination of this activity;

Three weeks ago, 28 people were arrested in connection with two major sites: victorchandler.com and stanjames.com. This was in suspicion of distributing prepaid cards worth tens of millions of NIS for gambling on the websites. These cards are sold in amounts of 100-5,000 NIS for each. The need to use alternative paying cards came after the block, since 2007 by the credit card companies and under police orders, of the option to pay on these gambling websites using credit cards. In this regard, the Police examined in mid 2009 the Israeli banks internal procedures regarding the clearing of credit cards over the Internet, including a warning to bank managers to prevent the activities and involvement of criminal organizations in the clearing on the Internet.

Mid-November 2009, an online gambling affair was exposed with a raid on the homes of 36 suspected of involvement in a network of online gambling and bets made via the sites http://bet555.net, http://betbet.us. In February 2010 indictments were filed against 22 of those who were behind these gambling sites. It was the first time that charges have been issued in respect of bets made only on the Internet.

At the end of 2009 another gambling affair was exposed. In this case the roulette was aired directly on the Internet cafe in Israel and abroad and watched by the betting users. The police raided the relevant Internet cafes and arrested 12 defendants in the case known as ‘Queen Mary'.

A few days earlier an indictment of the management involved in online gambling network that spread across more than one hundred sites in Israel between the years 2000-2002 has been made public. Those who were involved were charged with gambling money laundering and tax evasion.

Behind this campaign of eradication of illegal gambling, stand the official institutions betting in Israel, Winner-Toto and the National Lottery. The only two that are allowed to conduct lawful gambling on the Internet in the country, even if their servers are located outside of Israel. According to their argument, the scope of the legal sports books in about 5 billion ILS (around 1.25 billion USD) a year compared with a triple amount of the illegal sports betting sector. It is estimated that illegal gambling is the main income of the crime organizations in Israel.

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