There may not be an abundance of amity between Cypriots living in the south and those living in the north, but there is a special village in the republic which is bi-communal with a fairly balanced population. Pyla, in the Larnaca district of Cyprus is one of four villages located within the United Nations Buffer Zone. The village is home to about 850 Greek-Cypriots and 500 Turkish-Cypriots – all other municipalities except for Potamia in Nicosia are home to people who identify as one or the other.
Special rules exist in this rarest of places, and the inhabitants have found a way to exploit them to their advantage. The term “casino capitalism” may be bandied about in current American politics, but in Pyla it is a reality with an entirely different meaning.
There are six casinos in Pyla with two more nearing completion and most of them are joint ventures between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots according to reports in Phileleftheros. Southern Cypress has its own government who up until recently has refused to grant licenses to casinos. That is set to change with a new law authorizing a single casino operator to open a massive integrated resort in the South along with satellite slots parlors. The bidding process is expected to conclude on December 18th. The district of Larnaca is one of the most sought after locations for the new mega-resort according to some close to the issue.
Police have sought to shut down the illegal casinos in Pyla but crafty entrepreneurs have garnered licenses from the North. When police from the North visit a casino in Pyla they are told it belongs to southerners – when police from the South visit, they are told the opposite.
Reports indicate that most customers are being recruited from the South, and according to all reports the casino industry in this “gray area” is thriving. How long that will remain the case, and whether new policies will be crafted to address the loopholes, is yet to be seen. Despite opposition to the casinos from the South, governments on both sides may value the harmony that the bi-communal village represents where Greek and Turkish identifying citizens work together and exist without major conflict.
Local media are reporting that the special status of the community allows businesses there, including casinos, to operate at low cost due to free rents, water, and electrical services. Inhabitants have a right to free electricity, water, waste management and enjoy special community taxes, and property tax exemptions.