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Palestine, also known as the Palestinian Territories, is a self governing area which comprises of two regions within the borders of the country of Israel, the West Bank, home to about 1.8 million Palestinians, and the Gaza Strip, with 2.7 million. (1)
Whether or not Palestine is a country or not is a matter of some debate of course, and the Palestinians definitely think it is, as well as several other countries, although not either Israel or the United States, and since the United States has a lot of sway, Palestine has not been admitted to the United Nations as of yet, although the U.N. now officially recognizes the region as the “State of Palestine.” (2)
Regardless, it doesn’t function as part of the State of Israel anyway, even under occupation, and does have its own laws, so in terms of looking at gambling and poker and the laws that apply, it has to be treated separately.
Given that Palestine is an Islamic country, it should not come as much of a surprise that they do not have any legal gambling going on now. This doesn’t mean that Palestinians don’t like to gamble, or that there is no gambling going on here, but right now at least there isn’t any legal gambling, and gambling is currently prohibited by Palestinian law. (3)
I say currently though because Palestine, not too long ago, did have a thriving casino, in Jericho, which mostly catered to Israelis who did not have a casino in their country to play at. They do have the casino cruises now though which seem to do a good job of taking care of the interest they have for casinos, and many may not be all that comfortable traveling to Palestinian land to gamble, and probably prefer the friendly confines of an Israeli-owned casino.
Still though, the Oasis was a happening place back in the day, in spite of the presence of armed Palestinian soldiers at the entrance, who aren’t normally fond of Israelis, but money talks, and Israelis comprised 95% of the casino’s business back then. (4)
So they had a good thing going for a couple of years, until in 2000 the Israeli soldiers ended up closing down the place, and it remains closed to this day. The area might be Palestinian territory, but things are not so simple in Palestine, with Israeli occupation having a habit of getting in the way. (5)
So it’s not even that the Palestinians don’t want gambling, and this is against the law here by the way, but the laws here are pretty flexible it seems, and as it turned out the lure of profit, especially from Israeli patrons, their occupier and sworn enemy, was something they indeed found appealing, but for now this has all been set aside.
Playing Poker In Palestine
The game of poker isn’t particularly popular in Palestine, and given that this is definitely not one of the easiest places in the world to live in, with a lot of strife from both poverty and the Israeli military, gambling in general isn’t that popular either.
Poker is gaining in popularity in the Middle East though in general, although this hasn’t really come to Palestine very much yet.
There are no legal places to play poker here, and it’s hard to even say whether or not you could even find a game here at all, a live game anyway. As for online poker, a lot of the bigger sites don’t accept players from the Palestinian Territories anymore, which is likely more a matter of a real lack of popularity than anything else.
The real issue with all this online poker talk is the fairly limited internet access among Palestinians, although it’s higher than you might think for a region in such disarray, and these days, 230,000 Palestinians have internet access out of country of about 4.5 million, which is a higher penetration level than some countries at least, although it’s only at 5% which is still extremely low.
So you can’t play online poker without access to the internet of course, and you also need to have disposable income to play with, and you also have to have enough of an interest in poker to want to play, and all of these represent significant challenges to the growth of the Palestinian online poker market.
While there is internet censorship here, it’s mostly focused on explicit sexuality, and therefore they aren’t said to be blocking online poker sites at this time anyway, so if you are in Palestine and have the means and the will to play online poker, it does appear to be doable.