Melco’s temporary Cyprus casino hobbled by northern competitors


melco-cyprus-casino-underwhelmsThe temporary Cyprus casino opened last week by Melco International Development is so far performing “below expectations,” according to its property president.

The ‘pop up’ casino in a converted Limassol supermarket space that launched last Thursday welcomed around 2k visitors per day over its opening weekend. The property played host to around 7k unique visitors, of whom over 4k joined the casino’s reward club. Local residents made up the bulk of visitors, with Greece, Ukraine and Russia providing the most foreign guests.

But Craig Ballantyne, president of the Cyprus Casino aka C2, told the Cyprus Mail that, while the launch had been “a real rollercoaster ride,” the reaction had been “below expectations.” Ballantyne referenced the roughly 30 casinos in the Turkish-controlled northern half of Cyprus, saying “we’re not the only game in town.”

Ballantyne added that those northern casinos had an operational advantage over C2 because their comparatively lax regulatory oversight meant they could “give everything free” to customers, including alcohol, tobacco, “just about everything and anything … it’s not a level playing field.”

Ballantyne said Melco was discussing potential remedies with Cypriot regulators, including relaxing rules that prevent C2 from promoting gambling as a potential source of financial gain. Ballantyne noted that it was somewhat “discriminatory” that the lottery operations of the OPAP monopoly was allowed to hype multi-million euro jackpots “on every shop window in every street and every corner.”

So far, Ballantyne said C2’s slot machines were proving the most popular form of gambling with local punters, although the roulette, blackjack, poker and Russian poker tables were also doing well. However, Ballantyne said the property may “swap around” some tables, including adding some high-end baccarat, based on customer feedback.

Melco Int’l broke ground last month on its permanent €550m City of Dreams Mediterranean integrated resort, which is projected to open its first phase by 2021. Melco’s deal with the Republic of Cyprus allows it to open multiple ‘satellite’ slots-only facilities in addition to the C2 venue while its main venue is under construction.