Online Gambling ban in Cyprus imminent?

The home of many online gambling firms plans to ban internet gambling

The confused status of online gambling in Cyprus could be clarified soon, with the government completing a draft law seeking to ban the pastime. Following government approval, the bill will now go forward for European Commission and domestic parliamentary debate.

The irony of a nation that is the registered home of hundreds of online gambling companies banning internet casino gambling has not been lost on many industry observers; nor has the millions of dollars that the pastime attracts to the Mediterranean island.

Announcing the completion of drafting on the bill, which bans internet casino games like roulette, poker, and fruit machines, the Minister of Finance, Charilaos Stavrakis, told the Cyprus Mail: “These [online] 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.”

Initial reports in the newspaper appear to indicate that internet sports betting will be permitted, but only through regulated and licensed companies. The bill provides for the creation of a gaming board in Cyprus, which will ensure that a percentage of the total betting conducted in Cyprus will accrue to the state as tax revenue.

The minister could not say what this percentage would be, but speculated that it would probably be around 10 percent.

Operators caught breaking the new law will have their premises sealed until the case has been finalised, the minister revealed in a reference to reports that when police raid illegal venues and seize equipment, the operators simply re-equip and return to business.

Turning to the possibility of land casinos being accepted on the island, the minister reiterated the government’s decision not to license such 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 [land] casinos and online casinos for social and other reasons.”

The Cyprus Mail notes that in his election manifesto president Christofias vowed to stamp out electronic gambling.

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