Melco a shoe-in as NagaCorp drops out of Cyprus casino license derby

nagacorp-cyprus-casino-licenseLawrence Ho’s Melco International Development has emerged as the clear favorite to win the lone Cyprus casino license after Cambodia’s NagaCorp dropped out of the race.

In a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Wednesday, NagaCorp said that “after careful review and given all the latest information available to us,” the company’s board had determined that it “will not be participating” in the request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Greek-controlled southern half of Cyprus.

The statement stands in direct contrast to reports just last week that NagaCorp was staying in the license derby. Those reports followed confirmation that Philippines-based casino operator Bloomberry Resorts was dropping out of the three-way race.

In February, the Republic of Cyprus announced that NagaCorp, Bloomberry and the tandem of Melco and Florida’s Hard Rock International had made the casino license shortlist. In June, the government extended the deadline for the trio to submit their final project proposals, reportedly because NagaCorp and Bloomberry were having trouble finalizing partnerships with landholders.

The revised deadline for getting casino paperwork in on time is Oct. 5 but the Cyprus casino derby appears to be all but over. Melco-Hard Rock have teamed with Cypriot agricultural firm Phassouri, which owns large tracts of property near Limassol, the country’s second-largest urban area and a top tourist draw on the island’s southern coast.

Under legislation approved in July 2015, the winning operator will receive a 30-year license, with exclusivity guaranteed for 15 years. The property must host at least 100 gaming tables, 1k electronic gaming machines and 500 hotel rooms. The operator will also be permitted to operate a smaller satellite facility as well as three slot parlors across the island.

The Cyprus casino will further burnish Lawrence Ho’s global gaming portfolio, which includes Melco Crown Entertainment‘s casinos in Macau and the Philippines, the Tigre de Cristal casino in Russia’s Primorye region and a controlling stake in gaming equipment supplier Entertainment Gaming Asia.