An extensive study of the activity at the casino in Jericho
has revealed that the Palestinian gambling house earned half
a million dollars per day in "contributions" by Israelis,
and that Israeli gamblers brought in a total of $500 million
over the two years the casino was in operation.
Ha'aretz writer Ben Tzion Tzitrin, who published the
figures, writes that the casino in Jericho opened its doors
to Israeli gamblers in September 1998 and, within an
extremely short period of time, became synonymous with
normalized relations between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority. Israelis descended on the casino en masse,
and its closure six months ago--a few days after the
unrest began--marked the end of an era.
While most gamblers left with empty pockets, the casino's
investors made off with a lot of money, most of it passing
under the table, taking advantage of Jericho's special
designation as a part of the Palestinian Authority.
Tzitrin writes--perhaps sarcastically--that besides serving
as "a symbol of coexistence," the casino was an outstanding
financial success. In its first year of operation, daily
income reached an average of $600,000. During its second
year, daily turnover went up to an average of $680,000. The
total turnover over the two years reached $498 million.
To be added to these sums is a daily $30,000 in the sale of
food, beverages and cigarettes (5% of total income),
bringing the total daily gross for the second year to
$710,000. The "daily gross" per gambler (i.e. the average
loss per gambler and profit for the casino) was $225.
Approximately 3,000 people visited the casino every day, 97%
of whom were Israelis and 3% of whom were tourists, mostly
coming from Israel. The casino was open 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, with peak hours on weekends when many
Israelis trampled Shabbos to wile away their time engaged in
a highly destructive form of entertainment that left many of
them without a penny in their pockets.
Approximately one-third of casino visitors--1,000 people per
day--came on organized tour buses from various parts of the
country. Seven buses left Tel Aviv every day, six from
Jerusalem, four from Rishon Letzion and four from Bat Yam. A
total of 19 buses and 9 minibuses from 10 cities--from Be'er
Sheva in the South to Haifa and Afula in the North--ran
regularly. Each passenger paid $25 for the ride -- and was
reimbursed for the outlay in the form of gambling chips upon
arrival at the casino.
The identity of all of the shareholders in the casino is not
known, but according to figures gathered by Ha'aretz
the ownership breakdown is as follows: through Yasser
Arafat's economic advisor, Mohammed Rashid, the Palestinian
Authority held 35%. Another 15% was held by an Austrian
casino company, and 50% was owned by Austrian businessman
Martin Schleff, who had ties in the top ranks of Israeli and
Palestinian politics. Thus the Palestinian Authority
received both direct and indirect benefits from the income
generated by the casino.
In recent months various national organizations have voiced
absurd protests that shmittah observers are
"supporting the Palestinians." Articles previously published
in Yated Ne'eman have already showed the hollowness
of these claims made by people who did not hesitate to buy
Arab produce for six years, and only during the shmittah
year are they suddenly stringent in this matter. But it
would also be interesting to inquire why the hundreds of
millions of dollars transferred to the Palestinians by
Israeli gamblers have not received even slight attention.
Although one might assume that the above figures were meant
to serve as a warning against squandering money on gambling,
in point of fact these statistics were gathered by Palebsky
Investigations of Tel Aviv, and were verified by an
international accounting firm whose clients include casinos.
What is driving the investigators?
Ha'aretz relates that Palebsky is a member of the
casino committee that is working together with Mifal Hapayis
in an effort to promote the construction of a legal casino
in Israel to be managed by Mifal Hapayis! They want to show
its potential earnings.