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Our View: Decision to create a casino resort was the correct one

WHEN THE government announced the issuing of casino licences, as one of the measures aimed at boosting the economy, every municipality in Cyprus staked a claim. Reports would appear in the press about one municipality after the other demanding that the casino was built within its boundaries; then there were also the communities of the Troodos mountain range that felt a casino would revitalise their area. In short, the government would have had to issue at least a dozen licences to satisfy everyone.

How disappointed they must all feel now that the Council of Ministers approved the proposal of the international consultancy firm for the creation of just one casino resort. The government did the right thing in the circumstances as the proposal was supported by a host of strong economic arguments. A massive super-luxury resort, it was argued, would attract very wealthy visitors, who would not have come to Cyprus otherwise, thus increasing tourism revenue without adversely affecting the hotel industry.

More importantly, one big resort with a thousand-bed hotel, mall, restaurants, clubs and theme parks, run by a reputable licensee, would keep the casino out of the reach of the underworld which could easily muscle in on smaller operations, take control and give the country a bad reputation. One big casino resort targeting the high end of the gambling market would ensure against such a possibility, keeping things clean and legitimate. Having one resort instead of a casino in every municipality might also limit the number of Cypriots visiting the roulette, black-jack tables and slot machines.

The one resort option has other advantages as well. For instance hotels would not be fighting with each other and pressuring political parties or the government to secure a licence for their existing premises, which would not be of any benefit to the economy. Building a big resort from scratch, however, would be a big development project, creating jobs for the construction industry and all ancillary businesses. It would be financed by foreign banks, as no Cyprus bank would be in a position to provide loans for such a project. In short it would be a much-needed cash injection into the economy – estimated between 600 and 800 million euro. And the licensee would be more inclined to spend big to make the resort as attractive as possible, knowing there would be no competition.

There will be many who will oppose the one casino resort plan – alliance party DIKO is, reportedly, unhappy, having wanted several licences to be issued – but the decision has already been taken and it was the correct one.

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