One of the most war-torn countries in the world is Lebanon. The citizens of this country have endured a major civil war that pitted primarily Christian militias against Muslim militias during the 1980’s. Since the advent of Hezbollah as the leading Muslim militia and the de facto military and political power in the country, the nation has fought de facto and declared wars with Israel, the small, embattled nation to the south. And yet, as poor as the country is, and as much as it would benefit from an influx of money, inertia has prevented the government from collecting much-needed, and available, revenues through regulation of gambling.
Gambling is in Our DNA
The irony in all these geopolitical and military machinations is that even when the specter of war is ever-present, people want to gamble. The illegal online casino market is thriving in Lebanon. The citizens clamor to take advantage of casino bonuses which are super-useful to extend the enjoyment they get from online casino gambling. Reports have come out recently that illegal online gambling eclipses all legal forms of gambling in the country by a wide margin.
Black Market in Casinos
In other words, if a country chooses to ignore the attraction of online casino gambling by not regulating it or by making it illegal altogether, it will not eliminate it; it will send it underground and the money that could have been generated through legal, regulated online gambling is lost.
Concerned citizens raised the matter once again recently. There has been a draft resolution that has been before legislators since 2012 but which has not been dealt with in the intervening six years. This lack of consideration has three possible causes.
It may be because the necessary political leadership was lacking; because the state was more concerned with security and other political and military concerns; or because the politicians whose cooperation among themselves would be necessary to move the matter forward have been too busy jockeying for power and position to deal with the manifestly popular gambling business in the country.
Will Governments in Other Countries Learn the Lesson from Lebanon?
The success of the illegal online gambling operations indicates that people everywhere, even in countries that have suffered political and military upheavals, enjoy gambling and the state can reap financial benefits from making gambling legal and by regulating it.
In Lebanon, there is one legal land based casino called Casino du Liban. This casino, and the many bingo centers in Lebanon, is regulated under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance which has been trying to get legislators interested in regulating online casinos for many years.
The Ministry of Finance estimates that many millions of dollars in tax revenue are lost every year because online gambling is considered illegal and is therefore not regulated by the ministry. Despite being illegal, online gambling is thriving in Lebanon with a regular customer base in the thousands. In a small country like Lebanon, gambling that is frequently done by thousands of people is quite widespread.
Easy to Circumvent the Law
It is very simple for a Lebanese citizen to bet online. He or she must have a foreign bank account and, despite the religious and political traumas of the last several decades, Lebanon remains a very cosmopolitan country. After securing a foreign bank account, it is simple to transfer money to an online casino. There are any number of online casinos that are based outside of the jurisdiction of the Lebanese government that are happy to accept deposits from non-Lebanese bank accounts.
Problems Spending Winnings
The only difficulty some illegal online casino gamblers from Lebanon have is that they cannot bring winnings into the country. Thus, they can use any winnings that may accrue in their foreign bank accounts to pay for travel or to send to needy family members in other countries. Even in this area, where the government and the banks make it next to impossible to bring casino winnings back to Lebanon, some gamblers have found ways to circumvent the technical difficulties and do bring money back home. In either case, the players are not paying taxes on their winnings.
One such way is to cash winnings through a money launderer. This is the least desirable way to turn casino winnings into cash but it is one used often by people who cannot wait for a vacation to use their winnings. These money launderers take a large commission for providing their service.
Who Will Regulate Online Casinos?
The owners of the land based Casino du Liban feel that all online gambling in Lebanon should go through the land based casino. They claim that many people gamble through bookmakers who do not always pay out winnings. The citizens who have been cheated in this way have no legal recourse because bookmaking and betting with a bookie is illegal.
They also say that the lessons being learned from the American experience with sports betting can be transferred to the Lebanese gambling market. In the United States, sports betting was illegal in all but four states because of a law passed in the American Congress over twenty years ago.
The American High Court voided that law earlier this year after a fight that lasted many years in the US court system. The result is that now any of the fifty states in the US can legalize sports betting. Most states that are seriously considering doing so are setting up a system where sports betting is done through land based casinos.
Some states are also in the process of legalizing online sports betting through arrangements between established sports betting sites and land based casinos.
The Attraction of Gambling
Psychologists have long wondered what it is in the makeup of most people that they like gambling to the extent we see in country after country. Certainly the get rich quick element plays a major role when people “invest” large sums in lottery tickets hoping to become instant millionaires.
But many people simply like playing for small sums. Gambling games are available for free online but people like to place small bets on the outcomes of these games anyway. It is certainly a curious phenomenon that a country in political and military turmoil still bets enough at illegal online casinos that some people are concerned about the massive amounts of tax revenue lost through a lack of governmental oversight.