Historically, the Republic of Cyprus has not looked fondly on gambling, whether online or land-based. Whether through pressure from the EU or based on the burgeoning financial promise of regulated gambling, 2015 saw the institution of the Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Commission, also known as the Cyprus Gaming Commission (CGC).
However, the Cyprus Casino Control Law of 2015 only allows the Cyprus Gaming Commission to allow the licencing of a single operator owned integrated resort casino. The CGC defines an integrated resort casino as a location that offers “a high-quality hotel with a casino, convention centre, entertainment shows, theme parks, luxury retail and fine dining”. This resort is due for construction in 2021 by Melco Resorts.
This bill also makes provision for the CGC to allow an operator to open and operate four satellite casinos in Nicosia, Larnaca, the free Famagusta area, and Paphos. These will be casinos only without the extravagances of the primary integrated resort casino.
In terms of online and mobile gambling, this is covered by Betting Law 2012 and is governed by the National Betting Authority (NBA). However, the online wagering activities that are allowed under the Betting Law 2012 are online sports bets. In an interesting twist, the CGC does ban betting on horse races and dog races, both at betting shops and online sportsbooks.
The process of getting licenced by the Cyprus Gaming Commission is the same as with most gambling licence regulators across the globe. All applicants will be required to complete an in-depth application form that covers the corporate governance and business history of all parties involved.
The CGC especially states that it will only accept business parties who are “of the highest moral and professional standards”, “of a sound and stable financial background” and “have, where relevant, sufficient business acumen”.
As online casinos are currently illegal in Cyprus, the only option for would-be licenced operators to approach the NBA and apply for online sports betting licence. This is a stringent process that covers the financial, personal and business backgrounds of all investors and participants in the licencing agreement.
The application for a Bookmakers licence also requires a minimum bank guarantee of €500,000 (or 10% of projected revenues, whichever is greater) to be furnished by the applicant and to be valid for 6 months post the termination date of the licence being requested to ensure players and the Republic receive their rightful dues.
The online betting side of the Cyprus gambling legislation is far less aggressive in terms of its fees and taxes than larger markets like the UK. Approved bookmakers pay a very fair 10% of net gaming revenue to The Republic. There’s also an additional 3% due to help fund Responsible Gambling initiatives and the other local sporting bodies. The actual annualised flat fee is a standardised €30,000 per annum.
As there are no licenced online casinos in the Republic, they are currently missing out on the potential revenues from this sector. Hopes are that they will follow suit with the UK and other territories in approving online casino operators, even if only as an add-on to their land-based casino agreements.
Benefits to Online Gambling Operators
The current monopoly that the CGC has imposed on the casino marketplace does not bode well for fair competition or added value for players. This will be a simple take it or leave it scenario where they feel players have nowhere else to go. It does, however, mean that Melco Resorts will have full control of the land-based casino wallet.
The primary benefit of operating under a National Betting Authority betting agreement in The Republic of Cyprus is the relative lack of competition and fair taxation rate. While the marketplace is not a large one, there is an opportunity for an operator with a strong offering and clever localisation to gain a lasting digital foothold.
Benefits to Players
The current setup and legislation around approved online betting sites do require the bookmaker to provide the Authority with a bank guarantee of either €500,000 or 10% of revenues (whichever is greater) that will be applied to player bets should the bookmaker default on their obligations. This process is overseen by the NBA who are strongly in favour of the player.
For the time being, online casino players will have no CGC or NBA approved sites with which to play their preferred casino games. However, both of these bodies are committed to ensuring responsible gambling among the residents of Cyprus as stated on the CGC website and the official safe gambling site.
Far from being mere lip service, the gambling authorities put aside 1% of their annual net profits for the programs and educational drives aimed at protecting underage gamblers and those players who have developed gambling addictions.
Top Gambling Operators Licensed in Cyprus
With the current state of regulation in Cyprus, there are no approved online or mobile casinos. The National Betting Authority has approved several well-known online betting sites, which include:
Betfair: Online since 2000 this multi-product has been a solid reputation for delivering world-class online gambling. They offer a fantastic selection of games and lucrative bonuses.
Bet365: This brand is synonymous with quality online gambling, excellent service and speedy payments. They also hold licences across all major territories which speak volumes of their trustworthiness.
Stoiximan: This online casino is known for offering some of the best casino games by award-winning providers Netent and Playtech! Their site is optimised for mobile to ensure you can gamble on the go!
These sportsbooks can legally advertise and operate in Cyprus and meet all the responsible gambling and financial security requirements we’ve already discussed.
While it seems that between the CGC and the NBA the Cypriot gambling legislation is being well-implemented and done so in a fairly cost-effective manner, it concerns to see the monopoly that has been created for a single casino group.
When it comes to the future of online casinos in Cyprus, this group could either become a major obstacle (as they see it as a threat to their revenues) or they become the only online licence holder.
Historically brick-and-mortar casinos have not been well versed in what makes a good online casino experience and this leads to frustration on the part of players and reticence on the part of the lawmakers to extend the licencing agreements.