By George Psyllides
A bill governing the operation of casinos in the Republic is expected to be put to the vote later this month and investors would be invited to express interest by August, it emerged on Tuesday.
The House Commerce and Finance Committees discussed the matter on Tuesday and decided to revisit the government bill on June 23, before a vote two days later.
The government’s initial plan was for the creation of a casino resort and four regional ‘satellite’ establishments, which would only house slot-machines.
But there is now a proposal to have one casino resort and one regional casino that will also have table games.
Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides said the government would go ahead with the bids by August. Potential investors would have a month to study the law from the day it is approved, he said.
“We want it to go ahead because some investors we spoke with are wondering why it is not going ahead,” Petrides said.
The previous administration, under Demetris Christofias, had flatly refused to consider the creation ofcasinos, consistently brushing off suggestions that Greek Cypriots could spend their money at gambling establishments in the Republic as opposed to the occupied north, which is currently the case.
On coming to power, the current government asked the tourism organisation (CTO) to update a 2007 study into the creation of casinos to help them decide on the form they would take.
“Four hours from Cyprus there is a population of 2.5 billion interested in a casino,” Commerce Committee chairman and ruling DISY MP Zaharias Zahariou said.
He reiterated that Cyprus could increase the flow of tourists to the island by 500,000.
Zahariou said the main suggestions incorporated in the bill on Tuesday were ensuring the investor had the necessary capital to carry out the project, and that the terms of the agreement could change in the event of reunification so that the development remained viable.
AKEL MP Costas Costa reiterated his party’s opposition to the project.
“The operation of a casino will create serious social problems, especially amid such difficult social and economic conditions,” he said.