By George Psyllides
Cyprus’ casino must be the best of its kind in Europe and among the best in the world, the government said on Thursday, as it announced the formation of a co-ordinating committee to oversee the project.
“Setting as a goal for the casino to be the best of its kind in Europe and one of the best in the world, the commerce ministry carried out an international competition to hire consultants with extensive experience in casinos and hospitality,” deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said following a cabinet meeting.
The government recently hired Deloitte Ltd as its consultants on the project and on Thursday it decided to create a ministerial committee and a coordinating committee to oversee the project.
The previous administration under Demetris Christofias had flatly refused to consider the creation of casinos on ideological grounds, consistently brushing off suggestions that Greek Cypriots could spend their money at casinos in the Republic as opposed to the occupied north, which is currently the case.
Cypriots already spend millions on gambling – on illegal online games, unregulated betting shops and casinos in the north. Greek Cypriots spend an estimated €6 million a year on casinos in the north.
On coming to power, the present government asked the tourism organisation (CTO) to update a 2007 study into the creation of casinos to help the government decide on the form they would take – whether they will be accompanied by other development projects.
In October a meeting between the president and interested stake holders revealed the single casino licence announced in July will apparently provide for an integrated resort in one district plus two more branches, or “satellite casinos” in two other districts.
The original CTO study into developing casinos in the government-controlled areas predicted annual revenues for the state of between €35 and €50 million, as well as a significant boost in employment opportunities.
The cabinet also decided to prepare a comprehensive plan for the development of the Troodos mountain area.
Until that time, the cabinet decided to give priority to the development of the square, the government residencies, the asbestos mine, and other state property.