On January 11, two Nahariya, Israel police officers were patrolling the train station district at 2.15 in the morning. The officers noticed a group of three visibly intoxicated individuals leaving a fresh fish retail store located on Lohamei Hageta’ot Street, across the street from the train station entrance. Upon questioned the three suspects, police learned that all three were off duty railway engine drivers. The suspicious group was unable to explain their presence inside the shop in the middle of the night. A cursory search revealed that none of the individuals possessed fresh fish. However police found evidence that illegal gambling may be taking place inside the shop.
Police instantly raided the shop, located a passage to the second floor where a medium sized casino was discovered. Police confiscated significant evidence, which includes chips, cards, gambling devices, cash, multiple computers, monitors, modems, and a list of people who owed money to the casino. The police arrested the operator of the casino and took 10 gamblers back to the station for questioning.
The investigation revealed that the casino operated for several months, catered to employees of the railroad, and had a NIS 50 ($14 US) entrance fee. The illegal casino offered 3 poker tables and 10 computers which customers used to play an online casino in Israel. Customers were able to exchange money for virtual chips directly with the casino operator.
The casino operator was arrested and immediately released on bail while the gamblers, all off-duty employees of Israeli railroad, were not charged. In a press release, a senior police officer remarked, “I don’t know if an engine driver who spent the night at a gambling club or internet gambling can function properly on his shift afterwards.” Police sources reported that the majority of the customers played online blackjack, slots or roulette.
Israeli gambling laws only permit a national lottery (operated by Mifal Hapayis, a government agency) and sports betting (overseen by Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling). All forms of online gambling and traditional casino games are illegal. Underground, illegal casinos can be found in every town generating over $3.6 billion US yearly.