Gambling in Lebanon is legal, although there aren’t many world-class gambling establishments anywhere. The country has one race track, one cruise ship casino and one land-based casino. But while Lebanon has just one land-based casino, it is the best in the Mediterranean area: Casino du Liban. It is found in the coastal city of Jounieh, about 20 km from Beirut, the capital city. Gambling in Jounieh is known all over the Middle East and Europe, and in fact the city was once considered by Washington Post as the playground of the Middle East.
Before civil war erupted, the wealthiest people from Europe and the Middle East flocked Casino du Liban. They came in their flashiest cars, jewelry, dresses, and coats. It was the mecca of gamblers and high rollers from the 1960s to the 1970s. It shut down temporarily during the war and re-opened in 1996.
Gamblers will have a heyday in Jounieh’s privately owned casino. It has more than 350 games and 57 casino table games. The most sought after forms of gambling are here — blackjack, poker and American roulette. There are also nine Caribbean stud games, seven Punto Banco tables and hundreds of slot machines. Games take place until the wee hours of the morning since the tables are open from 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., while the slot machines can be played from 12:00 noon all the way to 5:00 a.m. the next day.
While it is world renowned as the centrifuge of Arab gambling, Casino du Liban is known for many other things. It features world-class entertainment (including showgirls) and has seven restaurants and bars that overlook the beautiful Bay of Jounieh. The casino is located on a cliff and covers a land area of about 35,000 square meters. In 2006, Casino du Liban had a major setback when a bomb exploded and destroyed a nearby bridge. The high rollers left the country right away, and while the city was not sure if any more international gamblers would come back, the casino got right back on its feet and continues to perform well today.
Meanwhile, the lone cruise ship casino in Lebanon is called the Orient Queen, which is owned by Merhi Cruises based in Beirut. Orient Queen offers 24 hours of gambling on its two blackjack tables, three roulette tables, two poker tables and a huge 300-seater bingo parlor. To entertain its guests, the cruise has two restaurants and a bar.
There is one other major gambling establishment in Lebanon and that is the Hippodrome Du Parc De Beyrouth in Beirut, which is the only racetrack in the country.
Before the 15-year civil war broke in 1975, Lebanon was steadily rising as one of the most important countries in the Mediterranean. It was then considered as the Switzerland of the Middle East for its picturesque mountains and hills. Jounieh had also made a name for itself primarily for Casino du Liban. With the war, Christian Beirutis and traders began to focus their attention more on Jounieh than Beirut. The migration of traders greatly influenced the development of this otherwise sleepy fishing town. Today, gambling in Jounieh is as popular as ever, while the city enjoys a much improved tourism industry.