The Cyprus government is catching flak for pumping the brakes on the bid process for its lone casino license.
The Greek-controlled southern half of Cyprus had set a July 5 deadline for its three casino license finalists to submit their final proposals for consideration. But the government now says it has pushed back this deadline by another three months.
In Cyprus reported that the government was responding to requests by two of the bidders – Filipino casino operator Bloomberry Resorts and Cambodia’s NagaCorp – who said they needed more time to finalize their presentations.
The two bidders reportedly told the government that they needed more time to secure deals with the owners of the land parcels on which they wish to build. Bloomberry is reportedly eyeing a property at Paphos while NagaCorp is looking at a Lamarca plot.
The extension has met with protests by Bidder #3 – a consortium of the Florida Seminoles’ Hard Rock international and Lawrence Ho’s Melco International Development – who want the original timeline to be honored and object strongly to the idea of a delay.
A government source told Cyprus Weekly that the request for more time had been unanimously approved by both the Legal and Audit Services departments based on their belief that sticking to the original timeline would have unduly favored the Hard Rock-Melco bid.
The government still hopes to make a final decision on awarding the lone casino license by the end of the year. Considering that the bidders will have until Oct. 5 to submit their proposals, that doesn’t leave much time.
Which may be why the government has reportedly scrubbed a clause from the original request-for-proposals that would have required government inspectors to visit each bidders’ existing casino operations to get a sense of what to expect. However, a government source said this clause had always been “optional” and visiting the existing operations “would not have added anything new.”
This isn’t the first time the Cypriot government has been accused of messing up the casino tender. In March, a consortium that failed to make the shortlist said the vetting process had lacked credibility, while opposition politicians accused the government of favoring some bidders over others.