Interest in building a casino on the Greek-controlled southern half of Cyprus has been “immense,” with local media reporting that Caesars Entertainment is among the operators looking to plant their flag. On Thursday, local news outlet Phileleftheros reported that the casino tender was a hot topic during a Wednesday meeting at the Presidential Palace with the ministers of the Commerce, Finance, Interior and Justice departments in attendance.
The casino talks revealed that a number of American and Asian casino operators had expressed interest in a Cyprus casino. Phileleftheros’ sources said that the Asian interest had come primarily from Singapore, where Genting and Las Vegas Sands are the only two operators currently licensed. Caesars has also expressed interest and the sources said the company had already dispatched representatives to the island to state their case in person.
The assembled ministers were told that casino operators had expressed concern over the government’s plan to situate the casino on state-owned land, so the government has decided to let investors select their own building site. The winning bidder will be allowed to open a casino in an existing venue until their new bespoke casino is ready to open.
Finally, the ministers learned that legal services had concluded its review of the proposed casino legislation, clearing the way for it to be submitted to the House of Representatives along with the relevant regulations. Cyprus hopes to have passed the bill and selected a casino operator by August of next year.
As written, the bill calls for a casino with at least 100 gaming tables, 1,000 electronic gaming machines and an accompanying 500-room hotel. The casino will pay 15% tax on gross gaming revenue, with annual license fees of €2.5m per year for the first four years, rising to €5m per year in years four to eight. Fees for subsequent years, as well as the initial license fee, have yet to be determined.
In the meantime, Cyprus police busted an illegal casino in the city of Limassol on Sunday night. The Cyprus Mail reported that police, after staking out the suspected gambling den, first arrested the doorman before he could use a remote control signaling device to alert the folks inside. A second remote control was used to open a secret passage hidden behind a wall that led to the actual casino. Police arrested eight staff and 55 patrons found gambling at four gaming tables (two roulette, one poker, one blackjack).