Israeli gamblers received a substantial New Year's shock when lottery monopoly Mifal Hapayis was forced to shutter its 150 keno machines and 500 slots on 31st December.
Mifal Payis’s hand was forced when it failed to negotiate the renewal of its license with the treasury.
The decision has been widely celebrated by finance minister Moshe Kahlon (above) whose anti-gambling stance is well-documented.
According to the Haaretz news agency, finance ministry officials extended Mifal Payis’s licence by “48 hours in order to wind up talks” but only if the group immediately shut-down it slot and keno machines.
With the shuttering of the machines set to cost the lottery in the region of $208 million, Mifal Payis is demanding adequate compensation.
Convinced that the total loses will be a quarter of what the lottery suggests, the finance ministry is instead offering the monopoly the chance to run additional lotteries.
While both gamblers and betting operators have been left shaking their heads, Finance Minister Kahlon has made no secret of his delight.
As he told Haaretz, “18 months ago, I said there would no longer be slot machines in Israel, and I am very happy that from today [31st December], there aren’t any anymore.”
Update - On Monday 2nd January, Israel finance ministers and the national lottery monopoly Mifal Hapayis reached an agreement to make online lotteries and keno available to Israeli players.
The new arrangement is set to run until 2021.
Update - On Monday 9th January, Israel's High Court of Justice ordered Mifal Hapayis to reactivate the 500 slot machines and 150 keno machines “until the court finally rules on the matter.”
According to a Haaretz report, the order was issued by Justice Yoram Danzinger.
Update - On Wednesday 11th January, just two days after ordering Mifal Hapayis to ractivate its 500 slots and 150 keno machines, Justice Yoram Danzinger has now told the national lottery monopoly to turn them off again “at the behest of the treasury and its battle against state-sponsored gambling.” The machines were subsequently deactivated at 6pm.