But some politicians want to impose restrictions

Turnover from Internet gambling on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus - legal home to the offices of many online gambling companies - reached Euro 2.5 billion in 2008 and is expected to balloon to over Euro 5 billion by 2012, the Cyprus Mail reported this week.

The newspaper was quoting Ionas Nicolaou, chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee, who said: “Ninety-five per cent of electronic gambling services in our country operate legally because they are provided over the internet and there is no authority [here] where one can apply for a permit."

At a time when the government is refusing to license real casinos on ideological and ethical grounds, there seems to be an explosion of online casino establishments operating legally through servers in other EU countries, usually Malta, the newspaper observes.

Citing a study carried out by online gambling consultants Global Betting and Gambling, Nicolaou said the turnover in 2008 had reached €2.5 billion, and revealed that one of the three biggest providers of online gambling services on the island, with a 30 percent market share, turned over around Euro 680 million in 2007. In 2008, credit card spending on online gambling had reached Euro 100 million, Nicolaou said.

The Cyprus Mail reports that tighter legislation is under discussion. At present online gambling in Cyprus falls under the Betting Law, amended in 2007 to comply with EU legislation for the free provision of services between EU members.

Now, some lawmakers are seeking to re-amend the law by inserting a clause that would exclude online gambling from the acceptable list of EU services. Politician Aristofanis Georgiou said. “The main aim is to protect Cypriot society.”

Individuals who play online games from the privacy of their homes are not breaking the law.

Nicolaou said it is estimated that operaors on the island made Euro 400 million in gross profit in 2008, and this will probably skyrocket in the future. He quoted one instance where 15 computers made a profit of Euro 93 000 in just two week

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