A Bad Bet in Jericho

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BETHLEHEM: The Austrian investors behind the Oasis Casino must be feeling pretty lucky; otherwise, the odds against a gambling palace in the Palestinian town of Jericho would seem awfully steep. The $50 million facility that opened Tuesday night sits right across the road from a dusty Palestinian refugee camp. And while Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) stands to collect a fortune in gaming taxes, ordinary Palestinians aren't invited. Entry is restricted to holders of foreign passports, which means most gamblers at the Oasis will be Israeli.

"How can you build a casino in a situation where Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other?" asks TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad. The militant Hamas movement -- whose political signature is the suicide bomb -- has already denounced the gaming house, and even some of Yasser Arafat's own supporters have protested. "A casino in Jericho offends not only Hamas, but also many ordinary Palestinians," says Hamad. "There will be no surprise if they start to attack the place."