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Israel interested in Las Vegas-style casino in Negev Desert

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December 9, 2013

Israel interested in Las Vegas-style casino in Negev Desert

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval held discussions with Israel?s political leaders about introducing gaming to the Jewish state, which is considering the idea, the country?s consul general said Thursday.

The discussions took place when Sandoval visited Israel in October as part of a trade mission to diversify Nevada?s economy. About 50 business leaders accompanied Sandoval and focused on opportunities involving water conservation, high-tech industries and the emerging drone aircraft sector.

But David Siegel, the Los Angeles-based consul general, said Sandoval brought up gaming when he met with Israel?s leaders. Sandoval met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

Siegel, speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board, said discussion of gaming that could benefit Israeli tourism is in the preliminary stages only.

?I think it?s an area of interest,? Siegel said. ?It?s not in the tangible phase yet, but it?s something that we?re looking at.?

Siegel said a town in the heart of the Negev Desert could be a potential casino site. The government recently built a luxury hotel, The Beresheet Hotel, in Mitzpe Ramon, about 50 miles south of Beersheba. The town is at the edge of the largest crater on Earth, 25 miles long, five miles wide and 1,300 feet deep. The desert town is a developing tourism mecca. The area is about a two-hour drive from Tel Aviv.

Siegel said Israel could use Nevada?s knowledge of how to ?build cities in the desert? as the Negev accounts for 60 percent of Israel?s land mass but holds only 8 percent of the country?s population.

?We can benefit from your expertise,? Siegel said. ?Gaming could add to our tourism.?

Before Nevada legalized gambling in the 1930s, Las Vegas was a near-empty desert town with a population of about 5,000. Now, the city hosts 40 million visitors a year, and gaming funds one-fifth of the state budget.

The Silver State already has many ties to Israel, Siegel said.

Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands Corp.?s CEO, is a major benefactor of the Jewish state and owns its largest newspaper. Siegel said he didn?t know whether Adelson is considering opening any gaming properties in Israel.

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Source Review Journal, http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/official-israel-interested-las-vegas-style-casino-negev-desert

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