The House on Thursday gave the nod to the regulations governing the establishment and operation of an integrated casino resort, paving the way for the government to start negotiations with the companies shortlisted for the lucrative licence.
The ordinances passed with 28 votes in favour, one against, and 16 abstentions. Citizens’ Alliance MP Nicos Koutsou was opposed, while the AKEL deputies present abstained.
The regulations relate to such issues as the operation of the Gaming Authority, the casino licensing procedures, disciplinary procedures in cases of infractions by the casino operator, casino operations, casino premises and equipment, licensing of casino employees, the casino tax to be levied by the government, and advertising restrictions.
According to the regulations, the Gaming Authority will conduct strict inspections of the casino operator. Both the operator and all employees at the casino will be required to provide the authority with their fingerprints.
The government has said that once the ordinances are approved it would announce the three shortlisted candidates a day later.
Last July, parliament passed a law allowing for the operation of a single casino-resort, along with four ‘satellite’ casinos by the same operator.
Three of the four satellite casinos will feature only gaming machines, while the fourth one will also boast gaming tables.
The government aims to award the single licence by September and to having the casino up and running within two years.
In the meantime a consortium interested in the casino license is alleging a problematic tender process, and is calling for an investigation.
In a letter sent to the auditor-general’s office, the Goldenlady consortium – which did not make the cut – asked how its own bid was dismissed when it dwarfed those of its competitors.
The consortium revealed that it proposed to invest €1.15 billion, whereas the three candidates said to still be in the running would be spending €425 million and €250 million.
Goldenlady went on to dismiss reports that they lacked the financial wherewithal for the casino investment.
On the contrary, they said, they were the only bidders which submitted letters of commitment for €425 million as proof they had the funds to execute the project.
“The fact alone that the names of the preferred bidders have been leaked to the press before the recommendations of the evaluation committee are put to the Cabinet for approval, casts a shadow on the credibility of the process,” the consortium noted in its letter to Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides.
Daily Phileleftheros reported that the consortium has addressed a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades, copied to the cabinet, the House Speaker and party leaders, demanding a probe into the tender procedures and how the names of the bidders were leaked.
According to earlier media reports, the three shortlisted candidates are a consortium comprising Hard Rock (Las Vegas) and Melco International Development Limited (Macau); Bloomberry Resorts (Philippines) and Nagacorp (Cambodia).
Goldenlady proposed Nicosia for the site of the casino resort. By contrast, the three shortlisted candidates are proposing Limassol (Hard Rock), Paphos (Bloomberry), and Larnaca (Nagacorp).
Haravghi, mouthpiece of main opposition AKEL, writes that one of these three consortia has “backing from high up in the government,” hinting that President Nicos Anastasiades may be pushing for his native town of Limassol to clinch the licence.
Though it remains to be seen, the entire casino project could be tied down were Goldenlady to formally challenge the tender process, and their allegations found to have substance.