Cyprus Mail
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Multiple casinos or ‘Las Vegas in the Med’?

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE GOVERNMENT is mulling over the creation of a one-off “global casino resort” in Cyprus, expected to attract millions in investment and tourism.

The Presidential Palace is currently studying the updated study by private sector consultants on the opening of casinos in Cyprus which was completed and handed over to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO).

According to sources, the options currently on the table are to allow the development of one massive “global resort” with a huge bed capacity that would offer a number of auxiliary services, including theme parks, restaurants, shops, malls, etc; or smaller multiple casinos across the island.

The advantages of the first proposal are many, said the source, since no such global resort currently exists in Europe, meaning Cyprus will attract visitors from across Europe (including Russia) and the nearby region of the Middle East, targeting anyone within a four-hour flight from the island.

The project goes beyond just opening a casino, as many other services would also be on offer, similar to those in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau. Apart from gambling and hospitality services, a big resort would attract the kind of shows that would never normally come to Cyprus.

The study reveals that the impact of a large-scale global resort on tourism would be massive, and likely result in a huge increase in arrivals, while getting the project off the ground is expected to bring in an investment of between €600-800 million.

The government appears to be leaning towards this single licence global resort option, said one source.

The size of the island and its surrounding areas only warrant the creation of one ‘mega’ casino resort, he said, noting that Singapore which caters to a potential market of hundreds of millions of people in neighbouring countries only has two casinos.

Las Vegas has many large resorts but the desert city has all of America to attract to its gambling tables.

The government does not rule out the possibility of offering a second licence to the same licensee for a smaller casino to serve the needs of another area of Cyprus.

According to the expert study, the alternative proposal of providing multiple casino licences would not bring the same kind of massive investment to the island, nor would the country likely see a huge spike in tourism numbers.

Politis yesterday reported that CTO officials and coalition partner DIKO were not keen on the proposal for one grand resort, preferring instead the multiple casinos option.

According to a source, the CTO had no say in policy-making while DIKO had yet to give an official position on the matter.

Since President Nicos Anastasiades broke from the policy of the previous government and announced the decision to allow the creation of casinos in Cyprus, local authorities throughout the island have been scrambling to promote their own attractiveness as a potential location for a casino, including the Famagusta municipalities and more recently the Nicosia mayor.

Given the popularity of Anastasiades’ decision, the government can expect significant resistance to the proposal for one licence only, should the government finally decide on that.

However, while the global resort will have a gambling licence, a number of auxiliary services will also be provided, giving local businesses the opportunity to participate in the entertainment and hospitality services on offer.

Also, the government plans to ensure that all local authorities benefit in some way from the revenue collected from the gambling tax imposed on the licensee.

As for the location of a one-off grand resort, the government would take the final decision after examining the proposal of a selection committee, though obviously, the investor would also have a big say.

The government is expected to take a decision very soon on which model of casinos to adopt in Cyprus, based on the experts’ study.

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