Update: News about Online Gambling Ban Attempt in Cyprus

Nicolaou criticizes Malta and the UK

This week’s news from Mediterranean island of Cyprus reported harsh words sent by the Democratic Rally Party (DISY) deputy Ionas Nicolaou, who accused Malta and the United Kingdom of trying to derail Cyprus’ attempt to ban online gambling on purpose.

In regards to the displeasing news about a three month break for EU consultation on the proposed legislation, Nicolaou, who is chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee, told Cyprus Mail: “The interventions and comments by Malta and the United Kingdom were made purposely as online gaming is licensed in both countries and they receive huge amounts of money for those licenses."

In September, the Cyprus government drafted a law on online gambling ban, and sent it for approval to the European Commission, believing that it will approve it soon enough to apply it in 2011. On the contrary, it was announced by the Commission that it will take at least another three months to finalize the issue.

According to the island’s Ministry of Finance, there are some points in the draft that require clarification, so the EU will delay any further decision or comments until March 14. Reportedly, the representatives of the UK and Malta had also submitted an opinion on the draft law.

However, Nicolaou claims that, eventually, Cyprus will pass the law, adding: “From the observations, we see that we can regulate online betting and ban online gambling or casinos,” he told the newspaper, revealing that the EU’s main queries centred on whether the government is trying to ban online casinos because they consider them substitutes for traditional live casinos.

“The governing party must be careful because the EU will only allow any regulation or ban according to the EU treaty and EU law and not because of our government’s views on traditional casinos.”

Another clarification the EU needs is about how customers would be paying for regulated online gaming, why the numbers of licensees included in the draft are so limited and what about the provisions which appear to be discriminatory among providers of these internet services.

Cyprus-based online gambling operator Henrik Witt commented on this situation by warning of the consequences the ban may cause to Cyprus, advising some operators to leave and exposing online gamblers to the dangers of playing with less reputable offshore operators.

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