Betting in Egypt

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Evidence of gambling in Egypt dates back some 5,000 years to six-sided dice discovered in archaeological digs. Betting on games of chance is no less popular today than it was back then, and thanks to a secular militarist government since in the 1950s, there is an abundance of land-based casinos as well as sportsbooks and lotteries available to whet wagering appetites from Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast to Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula by the Red Sea.

A liberal attitude toward gaming has prevailed through the successive regimes of presidents Nassar, Sadat and Mubarak. It has produced in Egypt a greater number of casinos than exists in any other Arab nationóno fewer than 29 licensed facilities in total nationwide.

The greatest concentration of these is in the capital of Cairo, where names like the London Club, Cleopatra, Sheraton and Omar Khayyam draw a truly international clientele. A strong tourism trade and international shipping through the Suez Canal make this the most welcoming of all Arab countries to foreigners.

The Casino Semiramis - InterContinental Hotel, for example, features 34 gaming machines and 13 table games along with 713 guest rooms. It is open daily 24 hours and even during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan daily from 8pm to 6am. Similarly, the Conrad Cairo Casino offers 30 gaming machines and eleven table games alongside 617 luxury rooms.

One of the very latest and most controversial developments has been a hotel-casino in Taba owned by Assi Abutboul, whom police allege to be the head of a crime organization. Although he has been arrested several times, Abutboul has no criminal convictions.

Other recent entrants to the Egyptian casino business include Las Vegas-connected MGM Mirage, which began plans for a project near the Giza pyramids in 2009, and Genting Casinos of Malaysia, which made arrangements to operate the Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel that same year. Perhaps the most novel of all Egyptian casinos is aboard a cruise ship on the Nile River.

Egyptians also enjoy wagering on sporting events, especially football. Until rather recently, all sports betting in the country was unregulated, mainly among friends. When the Egyptian National Post Organization teamed up with a Greek company called Intralot, it became possible to offer a sports lottery nationwide. Thousands of points of sale have since sprouted up, rapidly turning the lottery into the nationís primary form of sports betting.

Those Egyptian players who wish to wager directly on sports events are limited to using the Internet. However, there are no provisions for gambling websites to be hosted in Egypt, so no Egyptian sportsbooks currently exist online. That has left the door open for foreign online bookmakers to accept wagers and there are no restrictions to prohibit betting.

As of the most recent count, some 461 online sportsbooks are open to wagering from Egyptian addresses. Of those, three provide access in Arabic: VivaroBet, the BetArena and 1Bet2Bet.com. Funding accounts may be accomplished by using many of the most popular international payment methods, such as major credit cards, Moneybookers, Neteller and other e-commerce financial services.