Cyprus Expands Gambling Industry to Attract Investment and Boost Tourism

Over the past several years, Cypriot lawmakers, have among other things, busied themselves with crafting new gambling regulations for the sun-kissed Mediterranean island nation. As a result, expansion of both the Republic of Cyprus’ land-based and online gambling industry is in the works.

In 2012, the Cypriot government approved a new regulatory framework that would open the local online gambling market for licensed sports betting operations. On the other hand, online casino games and exchange betting were strictly prohibited under the new regulations.

However, it was not before October 2016 that Cyprus’ National Betting Authority (Εθνική Αρχή Στοιχημάτων) began accepting license applications from interested sports betting operators. And it was not before November 2016 that the regulator began issuing licenses to approved operators, with online gambling giant bet365 becoming the first one to enter the local market officially.

Back in November, the National Betting Authority also announced that it would block over 2,500 domains belonging to unlicensed operators, mainly to online casino ones. By August 7, 2017, when the blacklist was last updated, there were as many as 2,725 domains added to it.

According to a quarterly report by the National Betting Authority, Cyprus’ licensed online sports betting operators generated revenue of €3,466,230 during the three months ended March 31, 2017. Here it is important to note that there were five licensed operators to have serviced local customers during the reviewed period. Three more licenses were granted in the months to come. The licenses issued by the National Betting Authority are valid for two years.

Under Cypriot gambling laws, sports betting operators are taxed at 10% on revenue, a tax rate that could generally be admitted as a reasonable one, particularly when compared to other recently regulated European markets, where rates of up to 35% on revenue were imposed by regulatory bodies. There are also jurisdictions like Portugal that tax sports betting operators on a percentage of their turnover.

Generally speaking, the Republic of Cyprus’ regulatory framework offers quite a lot of operators-friendly conditions and given the fact that big industry names like bet365 and Betfair were attracted to the market could bode well for its growth. On the other hand, the National Betting Authority has not been very fast in issuing licenses, despite the big interest, which may eventually affect additional interest in the market in a negative manner.

Cyprus’ Land-Based Casino Industry

It became known last fall that a consortium made up of major casino operators Hard Rock International and Melco International Development had won the bid for the construction of the nation’s first casino resort.

The group of investors received the necessary license earlier this summer, which means that it can proceed with construction. Shortly after the necessary agreement between the government of Cyprus and the winning bidders was signed, Hard Rock exited the project quietly to pursue investment opportunities in other parts of the world.

Under the terms of the casino license, Hong Kong-listed Melco together with its local partner CNS Group are set to build a €500-million hotel and casino complex in the city of Limassol, a small satellite casino in the capital Nicosia, and three slot parlors in the Famagusta, Larnaca, and Paphos districts. The main casino complex is expected to be launched in late 2019 or early 2020, to generate 4,000 permanent jobs, and to further boost the island nation’s attractiveness as a tourist and investment destination.

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