Melco Int’l appoints Ballantyne head of Cyprus casino project


melco-cyprus-casino-ballantyneCasino operator Melco International Development has formally appointed Craig Ballantyne to oversee its City of Dreams Mediterranean integrated resort project in the Republic of Cyprus.

Longtime gaming industry figure Ballantyne (pictured) formerly oversaw operations at Tigre de Cristal, the casino in Russia’s far east Primorye gaming zone that until recently was controlled by Melco subsidiaries. Ballantyne left that job last September to take up an undefined role with Melco.

On Wednesday, Melco formally named Ballantyne as the Cyprus project’s new property president, with responsibility for ensuring operations comply with local laws and overseeing the resort’s management and its expected 2,500 staff members. Ballantyne said it was “an honor for me that Melco has entrusted me with this great project.”

The €550m City of Dreams Mediterranean’s first phase is scheduled to open in the Limassol area in 2021. The resort has been granted a 30-year monopoly over casino operations and is projected to be generating annual revenue of over €700m by 2022.

Meanwhile, the Cypriot government has released the results of its first ever gambling survey, which was commissioned shortly after Melco was granted its casino concession. The survey of 3k Cypriot residents was intended to provide a baseline from which to judge the future impact of the country’s first integrated resort.

The survey found that around 75% of Cypriots over the age of 15 gamble to some degree, and 60% of these gamblers choose to gamble with some form of gambling that isn’t authorized by the state, including international online gambling sites not holding one of the few Cyprus betting licenses.

Most Cypriot gamblers reported first dabbling with games of chance at the age of 12.5 years. Nearly one-third of them (31%) gambled for the first time with their father, 22% with a friend and 19% with their mother. (Insert ‘the family that plays together…’ cliché here.)

Roughly 13% of the survey’s respondents were deemed to show signs of potential problem gambling behavior, while 6% were deemed to be actual problem gamblers. That latter figure equates to around 24k Cypriots over the age of 15.

The Cyprus Mail quoted National Betting Authority chair Ioanna Fiakkou saying the figures “cover the gap” in the Authority’s knowledge base and “provide the right tools” for developing a national strategy to combat problem gambling.

University of Nicosia professor Constantinos Phellas noted that the strong correlation between initial gambling activity and family members, particularly the patriarchs, and said these family elders “have a large share of responsibility to protect minors from the dangers of addiction.”