The first concrete steps towards the establishment of a casino on the island have taken place following the conclusion of studies commissioned by the CTO, which have apparently given the green light for the go-ahead.
The two studies, which looked into the financial implications as well as the social and tourist impact, are now with the Commerce Ministry for evaluation.
Commerce Minister Antonis Michaelides urged caution though, saying, “even though we want quick progress, we realise that it will take time as new laws should be drafted, due to the serious implications of gambling”
He added that the number of casinos built will not exceed six, in tourist hotspots around the island, but cast doubt on the possibility that they will open inside a hotel, as none has the adequate infrastructure.
A special Committee will take into account examples from other countries with similar legal systems to Cyprus such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
“Our goal is to attract a number of big players from abroad who will come to Cyprus and leave their millions,” he is quoted as saying.
House President Demetris Christofias did not react positively to the news though. “The financial gain will not outweigh damage to the social structure,” he stated.
Antonis Josifides, who sits on the board of the Hoteliers’ Association, said his organisation was very much in favour of casinos being built and was happy that the issue was moving forward after so many years of discussion.
“Our position is that we would like to see a casino in each of the island’s major towns,” he said, adding that a hotel should also be considered as a possible venue if it meets all required specifications.
Nicos Rossos, President of the Association Confronting Social Problems (SAKOP), has spoken out in the past about the dangers of establishing a casino on the island.
“The impact of problem gambling is huge,” he explained. “Poor health, debt, imprisonment, job losses, relationship breakdowns and the burden to the public purse are all a reality.
“Despite Cypriots being encouraged to gamble, they should know that everybody loses in the end.”
Figures from credit card clearing agency JCC show that Cypriots are huge spenders in casinos across the world, with the biggest recipients being the UK and Turkey (through the occupied areas).
The latest statistics supplied by the Finance Ministry show that Greek Cypriots spend an average of six million pounds every year in casinos in the north.
The JCC research puts Cypriot spending in 2005 at CYP 11,663,368 on credit cards alone at casinos worldwide.