Cyprus bets on gaming to boost its tourism
By Manuel Marti
us is experiencing nothing short of a tourism revolution. And, the gaming industry is leading it. Casinos have become one of the island's major providers as a part of the new tourism strategy which aims to double visitor arrivals, triple its revenue and attract over €20bn of investment by 2030.
The hospitality sector is undergoing the most comprehensive reformation since it gained independence in 1960. Following the steps of its Mediterranean sister island of Malta, Cyprus has embarked itself on an ambitious policy that targets to place gaming as the flagship of economic growth.
Last autumn, a bill was passed that would allow the construction of the first land-based casino in the island. Giant casino operators Melco and Hard Rock have won the €600m bid for this unique integrated project. The group of investors received the necessary consent earlier this summer and they have already started construction work. However, Hard Rock exited the venture and the local partner CNS Group joined efforts with the Hong Kong-listed firm.
The luxury casino, expected to be operational by 2019, will feature a main resort in the city of Limassol and fours smaller satellites in the Niconisia, Famagusta, Larnaca, and Paphos. Europe’s first integrated project will include 500 guest rooms, 100 gaming tables and at least 1,000 gaming machines
This colossal casino would turn into one of the country’s tourism key players, bringing a rejuvenation of the urban environments. Despite substantial gaming taxes and licensing revenue that casinos generate for governments, it is estimated that individually each casino visitor spend twice as much as those who do not attend casinos. This stress the great aid that such developments would bring to Cyprus’s tourism.
Regarding iGaming, the country has been slowly opening up its borders for online operators. Back in 2012, the government of Cyprus approved a framework that would allow sports betting companies operate in the Cypriot market. However, it was not until 2016 when Cyprus’ National Betting Authority (Εθνική Αρχή Στοιχημάτων) started accepting license applications.
In November 2016, online operator bet365 became the first one to be granted a license. Currently this sector reported revenue of €3,466,230 during the first three months of 2017, according to official sources.
Nevertheless the recent opening, Cyprus still holds a high-regulated market. By August 2017, over 2,500 domains belonging to unlicensed operators were added to the blacklist. In addition to the 10% tax on revenue, the National Betting Authority has not been keen on giving online permissions.