Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Smoking casinos, fun for all the family

A skettos-drinking cynic who was in the coffeeshop the other day said that that MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou’s’ new-found rejectionism had nothing to do with presidential ambitions and everything to do with political survival instinct

IN THE END, despite supposedly great interest shown by a host of international companies, there was only one bidder for the casino licence when the deadline arrived. Two other companies that were short-listed withdrew their interest, reportedly, because they could not find affordable land.

Knowing what we Cypriots are like, this does not come as a surprise. As if land prices were not inflated enough, I bet that as soon as a land-owner was informed that a casino company was interested in his land he probably upped the asking price 100 per cent. Add to this an estimated investment in the region of half a billion euro and the idea of a casino resort might lose some of its appeal as a money-making enterprise.

This was inevitable as the political parties, in their boundless wisdom, changed the government’s casino bill, ruling out the bidders from buying state-owned land, in order to help the depressed property market after the economy’s collapse. They did not want landowners competing with the state.

This would have made no difference to economy, while the idea that land had to be bought by the bidders was a mega disincentive as a company that did not secure the contract would end up owning over-priced land it had no use for.

In the end, however, the process, perhaps unintentionally, ensured against a company from Cambodia, the most corrupt country in south-east Asia, owning a large expanse of Kyproulla land. How it had been short-listed for the casino licence in the first place, is question our establishment is unable to answer.

 

ANOTHER question that has no obvious answer is whether the casino resort concept would be a success. Apparently, this would be the first casino resort in Europe having a super-luxury, 500-room hotel, conference centre, restaurants, theme parks, water parks etc.

The idea, presumably, is to attract the family gamblers, if such a species exists. The father would be sat in front of the roulette table all day, while his wife and kids would be at the water-park one day and the theme park another day; or perhaps she could take them to the slot machines to encourage them to follow in their dad’s foot-steps.

I am no expert, but I would guess that gamblers are not guys who take their family along when they go to a casino for some serious gambling. First, the family would be a distraction and second, a father who has just lost a small fortune at blackjack is not going to be in the mood for fun family-time at a theme park.

I just cannot see how an advertising campaign abroad, urging gamblers to “Bring the family along when you blow the family fortune, it can be very supportive,” would work.

The casino resort was the idea of the consultants hired by the government to advise it about the casino model it should adopt. Commerce and Tourism Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, speaking on a radio show 10 days ago, said a casino resort had been opened in Spain, but did not last long.

The reason it failed was because smoking was not allowed, Lakkotrypis said, in all seriousness. We, smart Cypriots would not be so naive – our casino law stipulates that smoking would be allowed in all gambling areas so success is guaranteed, according to Lakko.

But if allowing smoking would attract the gamblers why are we bothering building themes parks, water parks spas etc?

 

I FIND it very hard to believe the owners of the Spanish casino resort would have allowed a multi-million euro investment to go down the drain because of a smoking ban? Could they have not lobbied the Spanish government for an exemption that would have allowed the resort to survive, saving thousands of jobs and helping a struggling economy?

It did not seem to have crossed Lakko’s mind that the smoking ban might not have been the only reason for the failure. Perhaps, as we had mentioned above, gamblers are not into going on gambling holidays with their families in tow, even if they are allowed to smoke while placing their bets. On the plus side the resort could attract smokers from all over the world who want to holiday at a resort which permits smoking in its hotel rooms.

 

A FEW weeks ago our establishment, rather mischievously, speculated that the narcissistic Akel MEP and one-time TV star, Takis Hadjigeorgiou was marketing himself as a possible presidential candidate.

We had jumped to this conclusion after reading an article he had published in Politis, in which he wrote that if the Cyprus settlement that would be agreed by Nik and Mustafa was not perfect – really re-uniting the country and the people – he would oppose it.

This was a surprise view, not because it was original in any way – the quest for perfection is the excuse used by all brain-dead rejectionists for opposing a compromise – but because Takis had always been a pro-solution, Turk-loving peacenik. He had supported the satanic Annan plan, in the past, despite the political cost and even though it did not really re-unite the country and the people as Takis would have wanted.

A skettos-drinking cynic who was in the coffeeshop the other day said that that Takis’ new-found rejectionism had nothing to do with presidential ambitions and everything to do with the political survival instinct. If there was settlement, Takis would lose his seat at the European Parliament and with it, the big fat salary plus allowances he collects every month. He would not find any employer back in Cyprus willing to pay him half that money for his limited abilities.

 

NONE of our six MEPs would command the ultra-generous salary and allowances they enjoy if they had to find work in Kyproulla. Who would pay Takis, Diko’s Costas Mavrides, or even Dr Eleni a salary of €8,000 plus €4,300 flat rate expenses every month in Kyproulla?

If there was a settlement all our MEPs would have to give up their seats the next day that European elections could be held and two of the six seats at the European Parliament would go to Turkish Cypriots. Takis would not even be a candidate for Akel which would take only one of the four seats available anyway.

But if the peace efforts failed Takis and his fellow MEPs would be able to enjoy their big fat salaries for another three years. And I must admit if I knew that a settlement would deprive me of guaranteed income amounting to €450,000 over the next three years, I would not only oppose it in newspaper articles, but I would join Diko and actively campaign for a ‘no’ vote in the referendum.

 

NOBODY could accuse Dr Eleni, whom some of her adoring fans had wanted to propose for the Nobel Peace Prize according to her party spokesman, of becoming a rejectionist for the sake of safeguarding her MEP income. She had always been against a deal, only now she has yet another reason to oppose it – to maintain her standard of living.

If there were elections for the European Parliament next month she would not have a chance in hell of getting elected as she would not be on Disy ticket but on Solidarity’s. Dr Eleni took a gamble last May when she was elected to the Cyprus parliament but gave up her seat, preferring to keep her seat at the European Parliament which pays twice as much.

A solution would be a double tragedy for Dr Eleni because not only would it lead to the Turkification of Kyproulla, it would also force her to survive on just her three state pensions.

 

THE MONEY, of course was not the reason Dr Eleni chose to the European over the Cypriot parliament. As she said at the time, she kept her seat because real battles for Cyprus would be taking place in Brussels and we would need her brave fighting qualities.

But where was she on Tuesday, when the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker was openly blackmailing Kyproulla telling us that “now is the time for the solution of the Cyprus problem” and “if this opportunity is missed there would be no other.”

The least we would have expected from Dr Eleni would have been to punch Juncker in the face to teach him that we cannot be blackmailed, instead of issuing angry statements after the event.

 

THE BEST of the indignant party statements was by Diko’s spokesman Athos Antoniades, who said there had never been any opportunities. “If we missed opportunities, these were opportunities to become Turkish,” he said.  But his outburst was nothing compared to Simerini’s editorial on Friday which said: “The EU is developing into a ruthless blackmailer, at the expense of the cause of Cypriot Hellenism, and a Pontius Pilate towards the arbitrariness of the occupation force… The exercise of terror by the officials of the EU against people now constitutes a common means of reaction… In 2004 they supported with passion the racist Annan plan and in co-operation with the Annan platforms blackmailed and terrorised the Cypriot Hellenism with all types of scare-mongering.”

 

DOES Akel want the massacre of civilians in Aleppo to carry on? This would be the obvious explanation for the decision of its two MEPs, Takis and Neoclis Sylikiotis to vote against the European Parliament’s resolution calling upon “all parties in the conflict and especially Russia and the Assad regime to stop all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including water and electrical infrastructure […] to lift all sieges and to allow rapid, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian agencies to reach people in need”.

Maybe Akel’s objection was that the MEPs condemned all attacks against civilians and hospitals in Syria, and also a recent attack on a humanitarian relief convoy and a Red Crescent warehouse near Aleppo which arguably constitutes a war crime. Neoclis and Takis, who were among only 50 MEPs that voted against the resolution that was backed by 508, might have had instructions not to take a stand against Mother Russia.

 

FORMER Akel big-wig and expert propagandist Nicos Katsourides took on the thankless task of defending President Putin’s decision sign the agreement for the Turkish Stream project with President Erdogan. Having been expelled by Akel, and being a free agent, Kats took on the role of local PR man of the Mother Russia in Kyproulla.

He performed this role with an article in Politis that was a monument to the dark art of propaganda. What Putin did was in pursuit of Russian national interest, but the reason he turned to Turkey was because the US, Nato and the EU had blocked his plans to build a pipeline to Bulgaria. Turning on those who had supposedly attacked the saintly Putin for the Turkish Stream deal (he did not mention who they were), Kats asked: “Why does the fact that as a rule, since 1960, Russian interests coincide with ours, bother them?” How did the cruel Soviet oppression of half the countries of Europe from 1960 to 1989 coincide with “our interests”? Did the invasion of Czechoslovakia coincide with our interests?

And I hate to say this but a guy who was a loyal Stalinist servant of a party that received money and direct orders from the Soviet Union, is not qualified to speak on our behalf or tell us who “our interests” coincide with.

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