Betting activity in 2022 went up by 22 per cent compared to the previous year, coming to €959 million, the head of the National Betting Authority told MPs on Monday.
Ioanna Fiakkou was in parliament to review with legislators the authority’s budget for fiscal year 2023.
Last year the €959 million wagered at licensed betting shops island-wide corresponded to 3.55 per cent of GDP, Fiakkou said. By comparison, in 2016 these bets amounted to 0.99 per cent of GDP.
In 2022 the return of winnings to players came to €843.42 million.
The state meanwhile collected taxes worth €11.75 million. Of this amount, 2 per cent would be given to the Cyprus Sports Organisation, and €3.525 million to the various sports federations and the Cyprus Football Association.
Fiakkou said 1 per cent of the taxes would remain in the coffers of the National Betting Authority. The funds would be used for programmes combating gambling addiction.
In this context, once the betting authority’s budget is approved, a contract will be signed for establishing a gambling addiction treatment programme in Famagusta district.
In addition, a proposal has been submitted to the minister of health for the creation of a screening programme within the national health system (Gesy). The programme would provide preventative treatment to persons who display early signs of gambling addiction.
Fiakkou also mentioned a ‘self-exclusion’ platform that will soon be rolled out, in partnership with the ministries of health and labour. This platform will list all welfare recipients – particularly beneficiaries of Guaranteed Minimum Income – so that they are barred from games of chance.
Lawmakers heard of ‘tragic cases’ where GMI recipients, as well as people on disability allowance, spend all these funds on betting.
Responding to queries, Fiakkou assured MPs that the oversight exercised at licensed betting establishments aims to eradicate corruption.
For his part, Dipa MP Alekos Tryfonides expressed reservations over the manner in which oversight is exercised at betting shops by private individuals contracted by the state to do that work.
He suggested that the checks be carried out by full-time civil servants, who in turn would be accountable to superiors.