Israel Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (left) on an Israeli trade mission in October 2013 (Image: Ralston Reports)

With all Israel is dealing with these days politically, you might not expect building casinos to be a high priority, but the Jewish state is apparently giving it some  thought.

To that end, Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval – always the hustler for his state’s primary product, casinos – has been in talks with Israeli political leaders about the idea. And late last week, the Los Angeles-based Israeli consul general David Siegel confirmed that they are, in fact, giving it genuine consideration.

Business Trip

Sandoval made a quiet trip to Israel back in October, with the goal of diversifying Nevada’s economy. Along with about 50 accompanying business notables, Sandoval went to Israel to study some of that country’s own industries as they could potentially relate to Nevada; things like water conservation, high-tech and Israel’s notable drone development industry, something that is of much interest to Sandoval as his state seeks to expand their own efforts in that arena.

After all, both regions are mostly desert and both regions often come under attack; even if the latter are of two different varieties.

Seems that as long as he was there and they were in chat mode, Sandoval decided to cross-promote and even brought up the topic of gaming to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. After all, those are two men who understand risk as well as anyone else.

Siegel talked about the meeting with a primary Las Vegas newspaper later, and noted that the discussions and how they could potentially benefit the Land of Milk and Honey vis-à-vis tourism are still in the very early stages.

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

Because the most likely area that would be proposed for a casino would be in Israel’s Negev Desert, Siegel noted that Nevada’s experience and know-how when it comes to “build[ing] cities in the desert” would be invaluable. The Negev occupies about 60 percent of Israel’s land mass, but only some 8 percent actually live in the arid region.

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

Possible Casino Site Exists Already

Siegel even has a potential locale in mind: a town called Mitzpe Ramon, about 50 miles south of Beersheba, that borders the largest crater on Earth – which has Barnum and Bailey tourist draw written all over it. Moreover, the government there has already put up a luxury hotel – known as the Beresheet – and with a drive time of just two-hours from hedonistic international playpen Tel Aviv, that could work out perfectly.

Siegel went on to say that Israel and Nevada are both focused on mutually beneficial business endeavors, as well as R & D, primarily academic, and that both areas are looking for possible ways they could partner in these focuses. There are already the basis for some of these ties in several ventures that are currently in place, Siegel noted, including Nevada’s Desert Research Institute as well as Israel’s Mekerot water company and Ormat Technologies, Inc., which is partnering with the Silver State to explore geothermal projects.

In addition to the potential to share projects and understanding of gaming and technology, Siegel noted that other areas such as biotechnology, medical technology, agriculture, cyber security and drones (unmanned flying craft) could also be of mutual interest to both communities.

And last year, Israel imported $129 million in goods from Nevada, while the Silver State took in $144 million worth from Israel, making it the state’s 10th-largest export-import country.

“It’s amazing how similar we are,” Siegel said of  the ties between Nevada and Israel. “We have a natural relationship.”