Even though the country’s economy is in a dire state, there does not seem to be a great rush to legalize online casinos in Cyprus, which could be a source of significant contributions to the nation’s budget.
In the case of brick-and-mortar establishments, however, there is a much greater support across the political spectrum.
After the country’s economy had imploded earlier this year, and a much needed (and much criticized) EU bailout was granted, Cyprus decision makers began to talk about boosting tourism revenues through the construction of casinos.
Now the government is waiting for yet another study on the potential market size before deciding on what to do next. Apparently, when it comes to changes in Cypriot gambling laws, deadlines are a bit like the horizon – always moving out of reach.
Still, the intent is definitely there according to Commerce, Tourism and Industry Minister George Lakkotrypis. “We will move very fast. We are interested in attracting investments for a resort that will incorporate a casino as this will help to improve our tourist product and make Cyprus a year-round tourism destination,” said the politician earlier this week.
Although the country’s relations with Russia may have soured slightly after the former offshore haven was forced to impose an emergency tax on large bank deposits, including some USD 19 billion of Russian money, it is still the tourists coming from there who are most likely to fill future Cypriot poker rooms, blackjack tables and casino bingo halls.
In fact, the number of visitors from Russia has been increasing and is expected to exceed last year’s numbers by 10-15% at the end of the summer season. Having resort casinos on the island could turn Cyprus into an attractive destination year round.
Another target for these new venues would be the Cypriot population living in the Turkish-occupied northern parts of the island. Although those areas have several casinos, locals are not permitted to gamble there. Greek Cypriots already travel north en masse to gamble, so it will be an ironic “population swap” when northerners start heading south to do the same.