Police in Israel have ordered the country’s internet service providers (ISPs) to begin blocking certain websites to prevent local internet users from accessing them. This is the first time such filtering action has been put into place.
All of the websites that are to be blocked offer internet gambling in Israel. Most sites are licensed and hosted overseas, but every one of them is suspected of being owned by an Israeli. Nearly all the sites being blocked are associated with Victor Chandler gambling site VC Bet, one of the few major internet casinos and online sportsbooks in Israel that offer services in Hebrew.
Notice was put out over the weekend that Israeli ISPs have 48 hours to implement the blocks. Many ISPs have retaliated against the demands, some saying they are unable to block IPs, others arguing that they do not have the right to filter the internet. According to Global Voices Advocacy, some internet users are already discussing ways to get around the blocks in online forums.
This move seems to be the last step in Israel’s battle against the Victor Chandler internet gambling operation. Three weeks ago, nearly 30 individuals were arrested in connection with the group. Those detained were involved in distributing prepaid cards that Israelis could use to gamble and bet on sports on the internet. These cards are one of the best ways to fund online gambling activities in the country, since local banks have been blocking online gambling related transactions since 2007.
Israeli gambling laws provide two groups with licenses to operate online gambling in the country: National Lottery and Winner-Toto. There are dozens of foreign sites that accept Israeli players, but most only offer English language services.