Lebanon isn’t known for being a tourist hotspot, which may have something to do with it sharing a border with Syria. The sovereign state, officially known as the Lebanese Republic, also borders Israel, while Cyprus lies a short distance away across the waters of the Mediterranean.
While, on the face of it, there would appear to be few reasons to book a chartered flight to Lebanon, from a gambler’s perspective, it does have a few things in its favour.
If you’re partial to roulette and other casino games, it’s possible to play in the country’s solitary land-based casino, which is more than can be said for many states in this part of the world.
What’s more, troubled neighbours aside, Lebanon’s principal problems appear to be behind it, and the state is now enjoying a spell of stability. It would be stretching the truth to suggest you should seek out the country for a gambling-themed trip, but should you have cause to spend time in Lebanon, it’s reassuring to know that there’s at least the option of playing roulette without facing prosecution. When it comes to playing online, however, things are a little different.
Playing Casino Roulette in Lebanon
As it stands, there is just one casino in Lebanon, called the Casino du Liban. It’s situated in Maameltein which lies 22 km from the capital of Beirut. It may be the only one of its kind in Lebanon, but it does have some things in its favour, not least its size. At 35,000 sq metres, there’s ample room in which to roam, game and dine.
The casino, which first opened its doors in 1959, before closing for 7 years in the early 90s, is a glittering and luxurious haven for indulging all your favourite table games including roulette. Thanks to a $50 million refit, the Casino du Liban is as good as any land-based casino you’re likely to encounter.
With 60 gaming tables, not only can you play roulette to your heart’s content, but there’s scope for trying your hand at poker and blackjack too. Throw in 400 slot machines, 5 restaurants, a nightclub and a theatre, and it would be fair to say that the casino is a complete attraction in its own right.
Table games including roulette are extremely popular in the country, even if its citizens are limited to just one outlet where they can partake in their passion. Lebanon has also produced a handful of professional poker players including Joe Awada and Sam Farha who ply their trade on the international circuit.
Lebanon’s Other Avenue for Roulette
The Casino du Liban might be the only place within Lebanon where it’s permissible to play roulette, but that’s not to say it’s your only option.
Thanks to the genius of the operators of the Orient Queen, it’s possible to experience roulette just offshore from Beirut. The huge cruise ship regularly departs from Beirut, taking Lebanese residents into the Mediterranean’s international waters and out of the way of its laws that severely restrict gambling. In addition to roulette, players can partake in poker, bingo and slots aboard the luxury liner.
Playing Online Roulette from Lebanon
Until 2013, it was legal for Lebanese residents to play roulette and other games online, but then the country’s Ministry of Justice decided to step in and put a stop to it all. As a consequence, Lebanese citizens found their access to overseas casinos all but ended due to internet restrictions.
While gambling is still legal in Lebanon, it’s restricted to the Casino du Liban, which isn’t exactly convenient when you fancy playing a spot of roulette on your lunch break. The ban on online gambling also put an end to the Lebanese’ ability to wager on sports, as there are no licensed bookies in the country.
Although overseas gambling has been rendered unlawful, if not eliminated altogether, Lebanon does have one licensed gambling site, La Libanaise des Jeux, shortened to LLDJ. Here, players can participate in the nation’s lottery and play scratch games. There is no provision for roulette and similar table games however.
The reason for the ban on online gambling, incidentally, has nothing to do with moral reasons and everything to do with financial ones. The government makes 30% of all profits from the Casino du Liban and was understandably anxious not to see its cash cow dry up. In shuttering the trade in online gambling, it’s been able to preserve much of the revenue stream from the casino, which operates as a monopoly in the country. In 2011 alone the government collected $112 million from the casino.
How to Play Roulette Online in Lebanon
Despite the government’s ban on online gambling, many Lebanese citizens continue to gamble online, participating in roulette, poker and sports betting, of which they are particularly fond.
Beirut in fact operates a major horse racing facility, the Hippodrome du Parc de Beyrouth. Betting is not allowed there however, but canny Lebanese bettors have found ways to get around this, not least by conducting their business on the web.
If you’re spending time in Lebanon or even living there, it’s really not that hard to access a foreign-operated online casino. While there is the odd online casino that may have slipped through the net thrown up by the Lebanese government, in 99% of cases you’ll need to use software to circumvent the internet filtering that’s in place. A VPN should do the trick, though a simple web proxy or Tor browser may suffice.
If you do intend to gamble online from Lebanon, it would be prudent to be discreet about it, but in practice the government is unlikely to take punitive measures against anyone found to have been casually gambling online. To fund your overseas casino account, use a payment method that can’t be tied back to your bank account or credit card if you’re a Lebanese citizen. Bitcoin, e-wallets and prepaid vouchers are all viable options.
The Future of Gambling in Lebanon
Lebanon’s stance on gambling is a strange one in that the government seems to have no moral or religious objections to the trade; it’s outlawed or restricted solely on the grounds of financial interest and preservation of the status quo. Whether boarding a cruise ship and setting sail for the Med or entering the country’s solitary licensed casino, it’s not hard to play roulette in Lebanon.
In truth, it’s not that hard to play it online either, despite it being technically illegal. It seems likely that the government will relax its stance on web-based gambling in future, probably not to the extent of permitting play at overseas casinos however. If it does do anything, it will license its own Lebanese-based online casinos and extract a share of the revenue from them.
Is it legal to gamble in Lebanon?
Yes, it’s legal to play roulette and other casino games in bricks and mortar premises. Sports betting is illegal however.
Where can I gamble in Lebanon?
There is just one licensed casino in the entire country, to the north of Beirut, but there’s also a cruise ship that departs the capital, enabling passengers to play roulette and slots offshore.
Can I gamble online in Lebanon?
Not legally, but if you know how it’s relatively easy to access overseas casinos from Lebanon.
Why is online gambling illegal in Lebanon?
Primarily because its government wants to keep making money from the Casino du Liban, which it has a share in.