Greek Cypriots will soon have no reason to visit the Turkish part of the island to calm their gambling thirst, as Cyprus' government announced that the first license to open a casino resort in the Southern part of the island will be granted by August 2015.
Speaking about the issue on Friday, August 1, government spokesperson Nicos Christodoulides explained that the government plans to fast-track a bill that will offer a casino license be valid for 30 years, together with a 15-year exclusivity agreement for the successful bidder.
The operator awarded with the casino license will also be requested to pay a 15 percent tax on gross revenues.
"This will be one of the most important infrastructure projects in Cyprus in coming years," Christodoulides said, stressing the importance that an opening to the gambling industry could have for the economy of the island.
According to the Integrated Casino Resort Policy Outline published on Saturday on the pages of Cyprus' Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MECIT), the license fee should guarantee the State an extra income of €2.5 million for the first four years and €5 million a year from the fifth to the eighth year of operations.
After the eighth year, the bill allows the National Gaming Authority (NGA) to modify the license fee every four years to "support its operating costs."
To the costs connected to the license, then, the casino operator will have to add a 15 percent revenue tax calculated on gross revenues, which the bill defines as "all gambling income, minus the winnings paid to customers."
"Procedures are going ahead fast and the government's aim is to select and license the operator of the Integrated Resort Casino in less than a year from today," Christodoulides continued.
According to the document published on the MECIT website, the plan is now to bring to the Greek part of Cyprus a "world-class complex that will include not only a hotel resort and casino, but also a combination of sights and activities."
In the eyes of the government, this should lead to a casino that will offer no less than 100 gaming tables and 1,000 electronic gaming machines and that will be "classed as a top-tiered casino resort in Europe, and one of the finest in the world."
Together with the casino complex, the government bill will also open to the possibility for the license holder to open up to four different gaming halls. The gaming halls will have to be located in districts other than the one where the casino will be, and will be allowed to include up to a maximum of 50 electronic machines, but no table games.
Discussing about the bill with the local media, Christodoulides explained that the government intends to fast-track the bill and convert it into law by April 2015. "These procedures move forward at a fast pace and the aim of the government is to select and grant the license in less than a year."
Once the bill will be approved, Cypriot authorities will proceed with an analysis of all the detailed proposals sent by interested investors, and will create a shortlist of the three most attractive ones for the country for the country's Council of Ministers to choose from.
The proposal received the approval also of the country's longest established tourism association, the Cyprus Hotel Association (PASYXE). Talking to Cyprus' Sunday Mail, PASYXE chairman Haris Loizides expressed his positive opinion about the decision of the government, even if he also pointed out how the PASYXE believes that only one casino may not be enough to let gambling have a considerable impact in the growth of the island's finances.
"Our only objection to the bill," Loizides said, "is related to the fact that we had proposed one casino per district. But the government decided to license only one, so that’s what we have."
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