Casino green light for southern Cyprus

By Tom Lewis
Cypriot legislators approved a bill last Thursday that will pave the way for the first casino to be built in the Greek-controlled southern half of the island, according to the Cyprus Mail.

The law passed by 29 to 22 in a parliamentary vote that represents a crucial facet of the government’s plans to stimulate the island’s economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

Its passage provides for the construction of one major casino and four smaller “satellite” casinos, three of which will only be permitted to host gambling machines.

Several amendments to the bill were made before its passage this month, including the withdrawal of the casino’s ability to offer credit to players, and a requirement for all local Cypriots to submit tax files to the state to ensure they are adequately solvent before they can set foot on casino premises.

The admissibility criteria will apply only to Cypriot nationals, while a further amendment denotes that state land cannot be used for the construction of the casinos.

Cypriot capital Nicosia is expected to invite expressions of interest in the casino project from major operators in the coming months.

Current President Nicos Anastasiades said in a written statement that the legislation’s approval was “another step in the government’s big effort to turn our country into an investment centre”.

He added: “The casinos will enrich our tourism product, upgrade its standing on the tourist map and create the conditions for new jobs.”

The first draft of the bill was published in September, and the proposals have faced significant opposition in parliament from the Communist Party AKEL, while the Greek Orthodox Church had raised concerns about the alleged negative social implications of casino gambling.

Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus from 2008 to 2013, said during his time in office: “There will be no casinos in Cyprus as long as I am President... casinos are expression of corruption and can create a crisis to the system.”

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