Residents of Lebanon could gamble online utill June 2013, when the Lebanese Ministry of Justice decided to tray necessitate and stop all offshore online gambling operators. As a result, offshore gambling sites were blocked internet pages and Lebanese poker players and sports betters were denied their rights to bet on their favorite games and sports events online.
This does not mean that no gambling is allowed, it’s actually legal in Lebanon. But, the only place where residents can gamble legally in Lebanon is the Casino du Liban. They have around 60 tables and 400 slot machines along with a night club, a showroom, a banquet facility, and five restaurants. But the downside is that it does not offer any sports betting facilities.
Another place where Lebanese residents can play casino games such as roulette, bingo, slots, and poker is the Orient Queen, a luxury cruise ship that sails away from Beirut into unenforceable waters.
The Only Legal Site, “PlayLebanon”
There is only one gambling operator in Lebanon who has a license to operate an online gambling site which is La Libanaise des Jeux, Lebanon’s sole operator of lottery games and owner of PlayLebanon, which sells lottery tickets online.
Reasons to Block Offshore Online Gambling Sites
The government of Lebanon decided to block all online gambling sites because it wanted the gaming monopoly to remain solely with the Casino du Liban. According to a law enacted in 1995, the government of Lebanon gets a 30 percent share of the revenue generated by Casino du Liban during the first ten years, 40 percent thereafter, and 50 percent for the last ten years. In 2011 alone, the government received $112 million from the casino.
In addition, the government owns part of the casino via Intra Investment, 38 percent of which is owned by the Central Bank of Lebanon. It is now quite understandable why the government decided to block major international online gaming sites such as Bwin, Bet365, PokerStars, and William Hill, which used to offer high-quality online sports betting and online poker services to the residents of Lebanon.
Players Question Telecommunications Minister
It was Blog Baladi, owned by a local blogger, which first broke the news of the Lebanese government deciding to block all online gambling sites. This new report encouraged Twitter users to question Nicolas Sehnaoui, the minister of telecommunications, who confirmed that the government had indeed made such a move.
While expressing his sympathy for Lebanese sports bettors and poker players who could no longer play at their online gambling site of choice, he said that “the highest judge” had issued these orders to comply with a law called Decree 6919, which was passed in 1995, for the protection of “public morals.”
Blog Baladi, however, pointed out that Starsofholdem.com, an online gaming site licensed in Costa Rica and operated by StarsofHoldem Group, London, was still accessible to Lebanese gamblers. According to the blogger, customer care at Starsofholdem.com said that the site is allowed to operate in Lebanon as “they pay taxes to the government.”
Online Sports Betting in Lebanon
In an April 2014 report in The Daily Star, reporter Elias Sakr has spoken about match fixing in Lebanon, facilitated by the rapid development of mobile and Internet technology. Sakr cites Imad Nahas, the secretary general for the Lebanese Fencing Federation and lawyer specializing in betting and gaming contracts, who says that recent results of low-tier volleyball and basketball leagues have led officials and owners of clubs to believe that players are involved in match fixing.
According to Nahas, Lebanon is no stranger to match fixing, but players can now ask any one of the spectators to bet online in their favor while they manipulate the game. In other words, players can take advantage of the sports betting popularity among the Lebanese, who are known to wager huge sums of cash on domestic as well as international games with online bookmakers licensed in gambling jurisdictions such as UK, Costa Rica, and Cayman Islands.
Speaking of the need to legalize and regulate sports betting and online gambling, Nahas said that the Lebanese judiciary decided to block all offshore gambling websites in June 2013 because the country has absolutely no law to regulate online gambling and had to consider only the law of 1995, which gives the Casino du Liban the monopoly over several forms of gambling.
Lebanon’s move to block offshore online gamblers will not stop players who make use of virtual private networks although security sources say that the Cybercrime Unit, which forms part of the Internal Security Forces, has taken all the steps required to prevent this.
Nahas said that the government has no option but to regulate sports betting and online gambling since blocking unregulated gambling sites will not have the desired effects. He suggested the granting of licenses to reputed online bookies so that it can base their servers within the country and offer online sports betting services to its residents. Part of the tax revenue generated can then be used to boost player wages and fund sports federations in Lebanon, and this could in turn go a long way in preserving the integrity of various sports.