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Lebanon Online Casinos

LebanonIf you know little about Lebanon, it would be easy to assume that, like many other Middle Eastern nations, it would strongly oppose all forms of gambling within its borders. But the country is unique in many ways, featuring an interesting governmental system that balances the representation for 18 different religious groups in the country – and their stance on gambling isn’t nearly as harsh as you might expect.

That relative permissiveness, however, doesn’t spread over to the online world. Facing pressure from the owners of a monopoly on gambling in the country, government officials have taken steps to try and limit the spread of online gambling in Lebanon. Still, some sites slip through the cracks, and many Lebanese citizens play at online casinos every day.

Online Gambling Sites in Lebanon

For many years, Lebanon had a relatively lax relationship with Internet gambling sites. That’s not to say that the government actively supported them or was happy to see them flourish, but officials didn’t go out of their way to prevent people from playing on them, either.

That seemingly changed in the summer of 2013. Suddenly, gamblers in the nation found that they could no longer access many major online gambling sites. The order apparently came from a judge who found that the Internet gaming sites had to be blocked in order to comply with that same 1995 law that guaranteed a monopoly for the Casino du Liban.

That certainly wasn’t a good day for players who had online accounts, but it wasn’t the end of the story, either. To this day, many online casinos accept Lebanese players.

And with no apparent effort from the government to criminalize playing on such sites (officials have even shown empathy for players who could no longer access accounts on sites that were blocked), many people have continued to play their favorite games for real money at reputable online casinos.

A large variety of sites still operate here, and many of them run software from a number of providers, meaning you can find quite a good choice of games in the market. Just a few of the companies that you might see here include:

  • Microgaming
  • NetEnt
  • IGT
  • BetSoft
  • NextGen Gaming
  • Bally

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Single Resort Dominates National Gaming Landscape

If you want to talk about land based gambling in Lebanon, the conversation starts – and largely ends – with the Casino du Liban. Located just north of Beirut, the facility was first opened in 1959, and was once considered by some to be one of the more lavish resorts in the world, attracting the rich and famous from Europe and the Middle East. The venue closed for a time in 1989, but was reopened in 1996 after a long refurbishment project.

Today, the casino features more than 400 electronic gaming machines, 15 tables running popular games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat, and a poker room (opened in 2007) that hosts tournaments and cash games. The interest in poker should be of little surprise, considering how many well-known poker pros are of Lebanese origin: the biggest names among that group include luminaries such as Sam Farha, Joe Hachem, and Freddy Deeb.

Horse racing remains a popular pastime in the country. The sport has a history in Beirut that stretches back thousands of years, back to the time of the Roman Empire. A historic hippodrome still exists in the site from that time period, and though there have been attempts to build on the land where the ruins are located, the site has been protected thanks to protests by the public and lawsuits against plans to build luxury residential buildings there.

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s no racing at that facility anymore. But the Hippodrome du parc de Beyrouth – which you can safely call the Beirut Hippodrome – has been in operation since 1921. For a while, the track was one of the biggest hosts of racing in the world, holding a year-round calendar of races for spectators to enjoy multiple times a week.

Today, racing takes place every Wednesday, and it’s even possible to place bets on the races – though the practice is strictly controlled. Bets can be taken at the track or at off-track betting facilities, and telephone wagering can also be arranged. However, mobile phones are prohibited inside the hippodrome, likely an effort to prevent illegal betting operations from transmitting results or arranging bets during races.

Outside of racing, however, the Casino du Liban has a monopoly on gambling – or, at least, it is supposed to. A law passed in 1995 was supposed to guarantee this monopoly, in part to protect “public morals” in order to stop gaming from spreading throughout the country.

However, there have been smaller establishments that have been able to operate throughout the nation. So-called “entertainment centers” have opened in many locations, offering slot machines to visitors. There are laws that limit what these locations are allowed to offer and how they can operate, but there have been accusations that at least some are exceeding what is legally authorized. Meanwhile, bingo has seen its legal status bounce back and forth on several occasions, most recently becoming legal for charity events – though, again, some say these events are often held by clubs that simply want to host some form of gambling.

Fight Over Monopoly Set to Continue

If developments over the last few years are any indication, most of the debate over gaming in Lebanon is going to be based on the supposed monopoly held by the Casino du Liban. In 2012, the resort filed a lawsuit saying that the government had breached the terms of their agreement, looking for restitution or a renegotiation of their contract, which is not set to expire in 2026 – when the state would become the sole owner of the resort. It remains unclear how these disputes will play out, but either a confirmation or dissolution of the monopoly could spell major changes for the gaming industry.

The future of Internet gambling in the country is even more unclear. The attempts to block online sites is based heavily on that same monopoly, so a change in that policy could impact virtual betting as well. The government could easily open the floodgates to regulated Internet gaming, or it could decide to try harder to crack down on unauthorized activity. For the time being, dramatic changes seem unlikely, but gamblers in the country should keep an eye out for potential changes in the near future.

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