Cypriot gambling laws are a mess. Even if one chooses to ignore the fact that official attitudes towards gambling differ in the north and in the south, the situation regarding gambling on the internet is very difficult to assess. Technically, there are no laws that specifically target online gambling. Generally speaking, it falls under the Betting Law, which was last amended in 2007 to force it into compliance with EU free trade agreements. The current situation has resulted in a sort of online gambling free-for-all.
In 2008, internet gambling turnover in Cyprus peaked at €2.5 billion. This figure is expected to grow to over €5 billion by 2012. Cypriots love to gamble, and since their country is sorely lacking in land-based casinos, they turn to the internet. The government, however, does not license internet gambling in Cyprus, so players turn to foreign online casinos.
Ionas Nicolaou, chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee, discusses the situation: “Ninety-five per cent of electronic gambling services in our country operate legally because they are provided over the internet and there is no authority (here) where one can apply for a permit.” In other words, since online gambling in Cyprus is not explicitly illegal, the only other thing to call it is legal.
This may soon change, however, as legislation is being discussed that will make further amendments to the Betting Law, explicitly removing online gambling from the lists of services it covers. The government is very concerned about the social impact of internet gambling.
The major problem area is not foreign-hosted sites, but illegally-operating gambling sites operated locally out of Cyprus. In the past two years, police have conducted 1,400 raids, reporting 970 individuals and seizing around 7,500 computers. The crackdown, it seems, aims to control unlicensed internet gambling in Cyprus. Unfortunately, the ways in which these changes this will affect Cypriot players’ ability to enjoy foreign-hosted gambling sites is not yet known.