Netanyahu Asks Ministries to Assess Viability of Eilat Casino

The issue is one that has been on the agenda for decades but has never gone beyond the planning stage.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Transport Minister Israel Katz to look into the viability of constructing a casino in Eilat, according to a report on Israel's Channel 10 TV.

The issue is one that has been on the agenda for decades but has never gone beyond the planning stage. At this stage, there is no operational plan for a casino in the southern port city.

The two ministries have been instructed to examine the viability of constructing a casino on the land currently occupied by Eilat airport or locating it in one of the city's hotels.

The advantages of a casino would be an expected increase in the number of tourists to Eilat, additional job opportunities and expanded economic activity in the city.

Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotels Association, said in response: "Yes to a casino, but only if it is based on a large and special conference center that would change the tourist map of Eilat. That was the finding of an international committee of professionals that looked into the issue 20 years ago, when Uzi Baram was tourism minister.

"The reference is to an independent conference center whose economic justification would be based on the casino. That means that the casino would not receive an operating license until the center is operational.

"In practice, it has to be a package deal: a conference center combined with a casino, not an independent casino. Only in that way will Eilat and the state of Israel benefit from the increased tourism."

The Prime Minister's Office said in response that there was no concrete plan for a casino at this stage.