Greek half of Cyprus to expand access to online sports betting market

cyprus-online-sports-betting-marketThe Greek half of Cyprus is proceeding with plans to launch a regulated online sports betting market.

On Thursday, Ioanna Fiakkou, president of the Cyprus National Betting Authority (NBA), announced that the NBA would begin accepting online betting applications as of October 3.

By November 3, any gambling site that failed to submit an application within that one-month window will have its domain added to the country’s online blacklist.

In 2012, Cyprus passed new gambling legislation that officially banned online casino, poker and exchange betting, while giving Greek gaming firm OPAP an effective monopoly over other online products. The following year, the European Commission included Cyprus in a list of European Union member states whose gambling legislation was considered legally sketchy under the EU’s internal market rules on the free movement of services.

The new push to regulate online betting won’t expand the list of legally approved online options but will expand the list of companies approved to offer online betting.

Cypriot finance minister Harris Georgiades said opening up the online betting market was part of the government’s five-pronged strategy to boost tax revenue via gambling expansion.

The other parts of this strategy include the ongoing process to award one brick-and-mortar casino license, the licensing of video lottery terminals at sub-venues run by the casino operator and privatizing the operation of the state lottery.

Cyprus also intends to regulate OPAP’s betting games via legislation rather than through a bilateral agreement with Greece. This change is necessary given that the Greek government sold its one-third stake in OPAP to private operators in 2013.

The Famagusta Gazette quoted Georgiades claiming that these gambling changes would create new jobs, combat tax evasion and add “a new significant and steady flow of public revenue.”

Last month, Cyprus announced it was giving its three short-listed casino applicants until October 5 to submit proposals on their integrated resort plans. The government says it still hopes to announce the name of the lucky licensee before year’s end.