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Israeli Government Discusses Casino Plans

25 November 2005

ISRAEL – (PRESS RELEASE) -- The Israeli Financial Cabinet will discuss in its upcoming session about allowing the first Israeli casino to be built in Eilat, Israel's most popular vacation destination and seaside resort. Abraham Hirshenzon, Israel's Minister of Tourism, is in favor of the decision, saying that it will draw tourists from all over the world to Israel, and that it will stop Israeli citizens from taking money out of the country and gambling in Casinos abroad, most notably in Sinai and Cyprus. In addition, a casino would mean more than fifty thousand more jobs, in a country that is almost crippled by recession, and an unsteady and uncertain situation in the Middle East. The new casino is expected to draw to it more than a million tourists a year, boosting state income by over two billion shekels. This figure does not include losses by the gamblers themselves.

Even though a formal decision has not yet been made by the cabinet, already groups of investors have shown interest in the new project. Among them are Shmuel Plato Sharon, an outspoken, flamboyant businessman and former member of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. Together with a group of investors that includes the owner of the Princess hotel in Eilat, the proposed casino is to be built inside the hotel grounds. The cost of the project has been estimated at between 50 and 100 million dollars.

Plato-Sharon has experience in floating casinos, and has operated a number of them in the Mediterranean Sea fifteen years ago. His partner, Isle of Capri is known as one of the leaders in the casino business in the United States, and owns 13 casinos across the country, 3 in Great Britain and 1 in the Bahamas. Isle of Capri is owned and controlled by Bernard Goldstein. In 2004 the company reportedly earned over 1.4 billion dollars.

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