The government of Cyprus yesterday proposed an amendment to Cypriot gambling laws that could put an end to the recent surge in online gambling sites that have been appearing in the country.
Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis calls internet gambling a “social scourge” and explained that the new bill attempts to eradicate it. “These (on-line) casinos have been created on every corner of Cyprus and anyone, young or old can basically gamble in the same way it is done in casinos abroad.”
The proposed law would effectively ban online games like roulette, poker, and fruit machines, making all internet casinos in Cyprus illegal.
On a more positive note, the bill would also regulate internet betting in Cyprus, allowing the state to offer licenses for sports betting operations. A new gaming board would be created to regulate all gambling in the country, including online sportsbooks.
It appears that the government’s primary motivation for the changes is financial. A tax of somewhere around 10% would be levied on internet sports betting sites, providing a new source of income for the government.
Stavrakis was not shy about confirming this motive: “since online gambling will be banned,” he explained” it is very logical for one to assume that a large part of the bets … will go to internet or other betting,” In essence, the Cypriot government hopes to funnel gamblers into a single niche market and to turn a profit.
The new bill still needs EU approval before any changes can be made, but local approval of the bill was unanimous. If the EU authorizes the legislation, it will very likely be put into place.
Little has been said about how the government intends to address the fact that players in Cyprus can still access online casinos hosted in other countries. The new law only attacks locally-hosted and illegally-operating gambling sites.