Cyprus Pursues Plans to Ban Online Gambling

European Commission to approve?

A well-known location for online gambling companies, Cyprus, has been seriously considering introducing a ban on this type of gambling. Namely, the Cyprus government has already drawn up the legislation which will ban all forms of online gambling except sports betting, and submitted it to the European Commission for review earlier this year.

According to the Cyprus media reports, it is expected that the EC will respond to the draft law soon, and that if its answer is positive, the parliament will immediately vote on the law, possibly before the end of the year. It was also reported that Attorney General Petros Clerides, stated that the bill bans online games like roulette, poker, and slot machines, but allows for sportsbetting online and retail outlet licenses. In addition, it proscribes that a betting regulatory body should be formed, titled Gaming Board, with licensees paying a tax based on turnover, not profit.

In terms of improved control of the online sports betting business, the law will introduce a ban on using cash for bets, which can only be placed via credit card or an e-account. It was specified that this way, transactions will be easier to detect and monitor, and that firms that failed to meet their tax obligations will be shut down during the court proceedings. Also, all payments to players will be guaranteed by specified bank guarantees.

To explain the reasons for the ban in the submission to the EC argued, Clerides said: "We need to convince the European Commission that the ban is in the public interest and that it adheres to the principle of proportionality." He also added that the European case law supports the proposed ban by Cyprus, pointing to the European Court of Justice decision in favor of Portugal.

The direction which the new bill will take, he indicated, is similar to that taken by Portugal, which has defined online gambling as “Placing a bet from Portugal territory over the web with a company based outside of Portugal,” making it clear that a person cannot, at any time, gamble online whilst on Portuguese soil.

Another statement was made by a government official Ionas Nicolaou, that there are currently over 600 online casinos on the island, which are currently operating legally because of a lack of specific legislation, and that the amount of money wagered by Cypriots online is measured in hundreds of millions of euros.

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