Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Adar 5761 - March 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Israeli Gamblers "Donate" $500 Million
to Palestinian Authority

S. Yisraeli

An extensive study of the activity at the casino in Jericho has revealed that the Palestinian gambling house earned half a million dollars per day in "contributions" by Israelis, and that Israeli gamblers brought in a total of $500 million over the two years the casino was in operation.

Ha'aretz writer Ben Tzion Tzitrin, who published the figures, writes that the casino in Jericho opened its doors to Israeli gamblers in September 1998 and, within an extremely short period of time, became synonymous with normalized relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israelis descended on the casino en masse, and its closure six months ago--a few days after the unrest began--marked the end of an era.

While most gamblers left with empty pockets, the casino's investors made off with a lot of money, most of it passing under the table, taking advantage of Jericho's special designation as a part of the Palestinian Authority.

Tzitrin writes--perhaps sarcastically--that besides serving as "a symbol of coexistence," the casino was an outstanding financial success. In its first year of operation, daily income reached an average of $600,000. During its second year, daily turnover went up to an average of $680,000. The total turnover over the two years reached $498 million.

To be added to these sums is a daily $30,000 in the sale of food, beverages and cigarettes (5% of total income), bringing the total daily gross for the second year to $710,000. The "daily gross" per gambler (i.e. the average loss per gambler and profit for the casino) was $225.

Approximately 3,000 people visited the casino every day, 97% of whom were Israelis and 3% of whom were tourists, mostly coming from Israel. The casino was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with peak hours on weekends when many Israelis trampled Shabbos to wile away their time engaged in a highly destructive form of entertainment that left many of them without a penny in their pockets.

Approximately one-third of casino visitors--1,000 people per day--came on organized tour buses from various parts of the country. Seven buses left Tel Aviv every day, six from Jerusalem, four from Rishon Letzion and four from Bat Yam. A total of 19 buses and 9 minibuses from 10 cities--from Be'er Sheva in the South to Haifa and Afula in the North--ran regularly. Each passenger paid $25 for the ride -- and was reimbursed for the outlay in the form of gambling chips upon arrival at the casino.

The identity of all of the shareholders in the casino is not known, but according to figures gathered by Ha'aretz the ownership breakdown is as follows: through Yasser Arafat's economic advisor, Mohammed Rashid, the Palestinian Authority held 35%. Another 15% was held by an Austrian casino company, and 50% was owned by Austrian businessman Martin Schleff, who had ties in the top ranks of Israeli and Palestinian politics. Thus the Palestinian Authority received both direct and indirect benefits from the income generated by the casino.

In recent months various national organizations have voiced absurd protests that shmittah observers are "supporting the Palestinians." Articles previously published in Yated Ne'eman have already showed the hollowness of these claims made by people who did not hesitate to buy Arab produce for six years, and only during the shmittah year are they suddenly stringent in this matter. But it would also be interesting to inquire why the hundreds of millions of dollars transferred to the Palestinians by Israeli gamblers have not received even slight attention.

Although one might assume that the above figures were meant to serve as a warning against squandering money on gambling, in point of fact these statistics were gathered by Palebsky Investigations of Tel Aviv, and were verified by an international accounting firm whose clients include casinos. What is driving the investigators?

Ha'aretz relates that Palebsky is a member of the casino committee that is working together with Mifal Hapayis in an effort to promote the construction of a legal casino in Israel to be managed by Mifal Hapayis! They want to show its potential earnings.

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