Ionas Nicolaou, the head of parliament’s legal affairs committee, stated that the government will speed up its efforts to amend Cypriot gambling laws. The politician named the increase in illegal gambling activity as the main reason for government’s urge to move faster.
Over 12 months ago Cypriot government has commenced discussions on the subject of banning online poker and online casinos in Cyprus. The lawmakers planned to keep online sports betting legal in the country, subject to local licensing of operators.
The main reasons for the proposed ban were a hard stance against criminal elements, running underground gaming, and protection of the consumers from fraudulent activities. However the initial proposal was contradicting the European Union principles of free movement of goods and services.
Back then, Attorney General, Petros Clerides, told Cyprus gambling news: ”We need to convince the European Commission that the ban is in the public interest and that it adheres to the principle of proportionality, as under the EU directive you cannot, except under certain circumstances, prohibit the provision of services from one EU member state to another.”
The current situation shows that the government is still searching for ways to implement the ban and keep good relations with the EU. Nicolaou stated that the widespread illegal online gambling is the key factor in legal sports betting decrease of over 20 percent from EUR 107 million to EUR 82 million last year.
The Greek gambling monopoly OPAP, which is also present on the Cypriot market, has been largely affected by illegal online gambling as well. Nicolaou insists that immediate action on behalf of the lawmakers is the only solution to the problem. The change in regulations would bring the necessary tax revenues to state coffers and protect citizens from illegal gambling at the same time.