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Cyprus: Gambling Ban Bill Nears Completion

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Aug/03/2010

A DRAFT bill designed to ban online gambling will likely be sent to the European Commission next week and should be voted into law before the end of the year.

The draft legislation – sponsored by the Finance Ministry – outlaws online games like roulette, poker, and slot machines, but allows for licences for sports betting outlets.

It also provides for the creation of a gaming board that will regulate betting in Cyprus itself. Licensed shops will pay a tax on turnover (the initial idea of taxing profits was scrapped), although the precise percentage is yet to be determined.

Establishments failing to pay their tax dues on time will be shut down for as long as the case is in court. In addition, lawmakers want outlets to submit a bank guarantee as a security to ensure that players receive their winnings.

Online betting is governed by EU laws and any change or adoption of new legislation must have their agreement.

The European Commission will study the proposed legislation and send it back to the government with its remarks.

“So there’s a long way to go yet,” said MP Ricos Erotocritou, chairman of the House Institutions Committee.

“If the Commission doesn’t like certain things, we’ll have to go back and change them…but not the core philosophy, I don’t think,” he added.

To better control the online sports betting business, it will be prohibited to use cash for bets, which can only be placed via credit card or an e-account (electronic account), thus making transactions easier to monitor.

However, judging from experience elsewhere, it is not entirely clear how e-accounts can be checked, unless the Central Bank – which keeps credit card records – is given sweeping powers.

After a great deal of back-and-forth, the administration has settled on an outright prohibition of electronic gambling in line with its professed commitment to stamp out the vice – in the real and virtual world.

Critics of a ban say it will drive the business even further underground, putting punters at risk. A recent police study found a sharp rise in violent crime with connections to online gambling.

Today some 400 ‘casinos’ are operating on the island under a quasi-legal status because of a lack of specific legislation.

Although precise figures are hard to come by, it is estimated that Cypriots wager hundreds of millions of euros online every year.

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