Cyprus Government Moves to End Online Gambling

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

By George Psyllides, Cyprus Mail

THE government yesterday approved a bill designed to put an end to online casino gambling that has flourished on the island in recent months with millions in turnover.

“It is a very important bill, which tries to resolve a problem that has developed into a social scourge in recent years,” Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said. “These (on-line) casinos have been created on every corner of Cyprus and anyone, young or old can basically gamble in the same way it is done in casinos abroad.”

The government draft bans online games like roulette, poker, and fruit machines.

It will also regulate internet betting – games such as football or other sporting events – and companies offering such bets will be licensed by the state.

The bill also provides for the creation of a gaming board that will regulate betting in Cyprus.

“A percentage of the total betting conducted in Cyprus will come to the state as a tax revenue,” the minister said.

Stavrakis could not immediately say how much revenue the government expected to gain.

He added that the exact amount of tax had not yet been set but speculated it would probably be 10 per cent.

“In addition, since online gambling will be banned, it is very logical for one to assume that a large part of the bets … will go to internet or other betting,” Stavrakis said.

The new bill provides for strict penalties for those breaking the law.

“The establishment will be sealed for as long as the case is tried,” Stavrakis said.

Under current legislation, police seize the establishment’s equipment, which was promptly replaced and the shop was up and running by the next day.

The minister said the bill would solve many social problems created with the huge increase in the number of illegal establishments offering online gambling.

The bill will first go to the European Commission for approval because online betting is governed by EU laws and any change or adoption of new legislation should have their agreement.

Stavrakis reiterated the government’s decision not to license real casinos in Cyprus.

“It would be an oxymoron to legally allow the operation of dozens of online casinos in Cyprus in the shape we have today and not allow the creation of a real casino,” the minister said. “With this decision the government remains consistent with its initial position that it is against the creation of (real) casinos and online casinos for social and other reasons.”

Approval of the bill was unanimous, Stavrakis said.

There was some confusion recently over comments made by Justice Minister Loukas Louka who appeared to be in favour of legalising online casinos.

In his election manifesto, President Christofias vowed to stamp out electronic gambling, which he considers a vice threatening the moral fabric of society. At the same time, however, ‘casinos’ are springing up everywhere, and online gambling has become big business with an estimated turnover of €2.5 billion a year.

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