Cypriot businessmen concerned with the incredibly profitable internet gambling in Cyprus are among the island’s twenty wealthiest people, yet apparently they have not been content with collecting all their earnings through legal channels. Police have confirmed that criminal gangs have been terrorizing debtors and even taking them hostage.
Underworld gangs have been capturing gamblers with outstanding debts. Holding the debtors hostage in the deadbeat’s own homes, the gang members proceed to terrorize and brutalize their victims. Survivors are left to convalesce in hospitals for days. Fearing further cruelty as vengeance, these borrowers adamantly decline to converse with police. Two women, after being forced to forfeit valuable jewelry, each attempted to commit suicide.
In response, police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos stated “The police have repeatedly underlined – publicly in fact – that online gambling is the originating cause of many crimes – whether these involve loan sharking, or threats, or blackmail or even taking people hostage illegally.”
Moreover, Katsounotos guarantees that police are heightening their efforts to fight unlawful internet gambling. Last Saturday a police operation in Larnaca stung three such gambling establishments: an internet café, a wagering club, and a bookie. Evidence collected included computers, cash, 64 bank checks with a collective value of €105,000, and a gun.
While Cyrpus offers licenses to many upstanding international internet casinos, local players often seek services from unlicensed and unregulated venues. Last September, a Cyprus loan shark rule to tackle illegal internet gambling went before the House.
Now, the European Commission is reviewing a bill which could modify Cypriot gambling laws. As Cyprus is a member of the European Union, all online betting is further subject to EU laws. Thus the Euopean Commission must approve any modifications or amendments before the bill can be enacted.
The police desire that the Parliament pass the bill before year’s end. Katsounotos stated that the police are “optimistic that the current parliament, before the 2011 elections, will give us the legal ammunition to deal with the problem”.
The new legislation, if it comes to pass, will outlaw online casino games such as slots, poker, and roulette, though still permit sports betting. It will also initiate a gambling board to regulate offline wagering within Cyrus. Licensed betting shops will pay a percentage tax on turnover, though how much has still not been decided. If taxes are late, the operation would be such down until either the taxes are paid or the case is resolved in court. Bank guarantees would be required to secure winnings for players.