By Jean Christou
Comments on the draft law for a proposed integrated casino resort were invited from interested parties by the commerce ministry on Tuesday, which has published it online in Greek and English.
The ministry said the objectives of the law were to control, limit and strictly regulate casino gaming in Cyprus, to combat criminal activity in gaming and channel consumers wishing to gamble to a casino away from “illegal and poorly regulated establishments”, and to protect consumers, minors (under 21) and the vulnerable.
The law provides for a casino of international standard, and a hotel or hotels of international standards exceeding the requirements for a five-star establishment under existing laws with at least 500 luxury rooms, at least 100 gaming tables and at least 1,000 gaming machines.
The operator gets to choose which district the resort will be located in, an avoidance tactic by the government, which has been under pressure from all districts to award them the licence.
Town planning laws will not apply to the resort, the construction of which will come under the direct purview of the Cabinet. This is likely a means to speed up the process given the slowness of regular bureaucracy.
Under the provisions, the operator can create four other premises ‘off-site’ with a maximum of 50 gaming machines per premises but no casino games.
These premises must be located outside the district where the resort is based but cannot be sold, rented, transferred or assigned to anyone other than the resort operator. The integrated resort can stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and smoking will be allowed on the gaming floor.
Betting, lotteries, horseracing or online gaming will not come under the casino law.
The initial fee for the casino resort will be determined as part of the initial offer for the 30-year licence with 15 years of exclusivity for the operator.
The annual fee to the state each year for the first four years will be €2.5 million, rising to €5 million for years four to eight, after which it may be reviewed upwards by the Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority (CGC).
On top of that, the government hopes to pick up 15 per cent, a casino tax, from gross gaming revenues per month. The supply of gaming services – to be defined by inland revenue – will be VAT-free but the rest of the resort’s facilities will not be exempt.
The draft law also lists a series of penalties for infractions both on the parts of the casino and the customer with whopping fines ranging from €100,000 for the lowest up to €1 million, with accompanying jail sentences.
And in a token nod to the moral concerns of opposition AKEL, which when it was in power refused to even consider a casino, the draft law states that the casino resort “shall be truthful, tasteful, inoffensive, informational and responsible, does not promote casino gaming as an economic alternative, and has regard for the need to protect minors and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by casino gaming”.
The commerce ministry invites comments to be sent to: [email protected] by midnight on October 19. The draft law and summary can be found at: http://www.mcit.gov.cy/mcit/mcit.nsf/All/BC314C6A13365BDAC2257D270042BA28?OpenDocument