Cyprus Mail
Business Cyprus

Cyprus’ first-ever casino wants back in the game

The outside of the building which is now a national monument

By George Psyllides

THE idyllic Paphos village of Kritou Terra wants to be granted a licence to construct a casino by virtue of having hosted the first such establishment on the island in the 19th century when Cyprus was occupied by the Ottomans.

Dhervis Charalambous, the community leader, said re-opening a casino was their privilege and it would rejuvenate the area, which has some two-dozen villages.

“We are trying to keep the community going,” he told the Cyprus Mail, adding that the whole area would benefit.

Charalambous said the community has 1,800 donums (1 donum is around 1,300 square metres) available, with road access, water and power.

One casino, he said, could open some 1,400 jobs, thus providing employment for the residents of the surrounding communities, which are slowly dying.

The community has sent letters to the president, parliament, and the commerce ministry, and it was now waiting for the decision.

The building that housed the Kritou Terra casino was built between 1860 and 1870. The establishment started operation towards the end of Ottoman rule in 1878 and close at the beginning of the 20th century.

The idea belonged to Savvas Makrides, who operated the casino. His parents came from Egypt and they brought money to the village.

“The visitors were mostly Turkish but also the elite of the Middle East,” Charalambous said.

According to the official, the casino closed in 1890 after a dispute between a Turk and a Christian.

The village website says Makrides “dared to do the unthinkable for the time by bringing women from Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, who did belly dancing at the casino while the customers were playing cards and gambling in general”.

The internal walls of the casino are decorated with frescoes inspired by historical events.

One of them depicts the scene of the arrest by the Turks of the hero of the Greek revolution Athanassios Dhiakos.

Another one portrays Panagis Koutalianos, a man of immense physical power born in 1847 on the island of Koutali, or Ekinlik, in the Sea of Marmara.

The fresco of Koutalianos, wielding what appear to be two canons, was painted when he visited the community in 1896.

The building is maintained by the antiquities department.

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