Lebanon has had its share of strife over the last 50 years. It is located in the center of the Middle East, which means that it is at the crossroads for wars and trouble from Israel, Egypt, and Syria. Most recently, the civil war in Syria has left Lebanon strapped for cash as it tries to handle the overflow of refugees on its borders.
This makes it all the more difficult to understand why the country, which has had a bill to approve online gaming in the parliament in one form or another since 2012, has not done anything to legalize it. In fact, economic experts have noted that Lebanon is losing money each year to illegal gaming in the country as well as outside it. Many people within the Lebanese government believe that if Parliament cannot get a bill passed, especially at a time when it is desperately needed, the country will be losing a valuable income stream.
Gaming in Lebanon
Currently, the only gaming available in Lebanon is the Casino du Liban, a coastal casino just north of the capital of Beirut. The casino boasts about 135,000 square feet of gaming space, with 400 slot machines, 60 gaming tables, a showroom, theater, nightclubs, and restaurants. The casino has been open for 60 years and has undergone several renovations, especially after the Lebanese Civil War in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The historic casino, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment, has many featured entertainers and has been visited by many members of royalty. The company reported more than 121 billion Lebanese pounds in revenue for 2017. Sports gaming and online gaming are currently illegal, which is what the Lebanese Parliament is trying to change.
Bickering Over Online Gaming
The Lebanese Parliament has been bickering for the last six years on how to regulate online gaming and sports gaming. The most recent bill structured by the parliament gives the power to oversee online gaming and sports gaming to the government. The Casino du Liban would be excluded from the bill because it has been in business for nearly 60 years and it operates under its own rules and regulations. All other forms of gaming, including bingo halls and online gaming, would fall under the jurisdiction of the Finance Ministry.
The Input from Caesars and the Booming Illegal Gaming Online
Caesars Entertainment has been pressing the government to allow it to govern all forms of gaming in the country, including online gaming and sports betting. The company argues that is has been managing gaming for decades, and would be better able to make sure that online gaming is marketed correctly to bring the most money possible to the government.In addition, several illegal gaming enterprises have been introduced in Lebanon, and the Interior Ministry has introduced 1,000 unlicensed machines to operate around the country. However, they aren’t giving the country any revenue. Both Caesars Entertainment and the Finance Ministry have argued that allowing unlicensed and unregulated games into the country do nothing to benefit the country’s revenue.
According to news reports, illegal gaming online is under the control of one man who lives in both the United States and Lebanon. He is reaping all the profits from illegal online gaming without having to pay taxes to the government. According to the Ministry of Finance, the concern for the Lebanese government is, if it allows online gaming and sports gaming, how to make sure it is tightly regulated in order to guarantee that the government can profit from the revenue, as well as ensure the laws are followed.
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