Local media reported today that the British Bases have destroyed gambling equipment and paraphernalia seized from illegal gambling establishments in Cyprus. Gambling is illegal in South Cyprus, the UN controlled “Blue Zone” between North and South, and on the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The SBA include bases and other land that were retained by the British under the 1960 treaty of independence.
The equipment, including 13 gaming machines, 48 gaming tables, and 14 roulette wheels valued at about 14,000 euros each were destroyed by an excavator at the Episkopi Garrison (part of the Akrotiri area) in a show for local media. The items had undergone due law process before destruction, and one outlet noted that there were perhaps hundreds more items awaiting final determination by the British court before they too meet the same eventual fate. Some reports indicate that the equipment destroyed today was only about 1/5 of what Bases have in storage.
SBA Police Chief Constable Mick Matthews said the destroyed items had been seized from two sites on the Bases in a series of seven police actions over the past year. Chief Constable Matthews told media that they were sending a clear message to illegal operators and that they didn’t want to see the equipment fall into criminal hands again.
Other outlets report that although Cyprus is in the process of vetting a single operator to run the southern casino concession the Bases have no intention of legalizing gambling.
Cyprus Ministers of Parliament have said they will submit their views on casino regulations this week and expect the issue to be concluded sometime in March. One reason it may have taken this long to solidify things like control of a supervisory authority by the auditor-general, and the individual functions of the authority, is that the regulations have been translated from an original English text and there were still some ambiguities to clarify.
Once the regulations are clarified and approved a shortlist of three bidders will advance to the next stage in the licensing process. Three early contenders that reportedly withdrew from the competition for the first full scale integrated entertainment resort in the region were Genting, Caesars, and Sun International – according to some reports, with so-called “insider information” coming up differently through separate outlets. Believed to still be in the running are Hard Rock International, Bloomberry, NagaCorp, Bouygues Batiment International, Barriere with Accor Hotels, and Absolut – making the decision a difficult one as each would bring something unique to the table.
Most reports include Hard Rock as a front-runner for the shortlist. Bloomberry has been on an international expansion mission following the success of their Solaire Resort in the Philippines, and some people close to the subject have let on that Bouygues Batiment International, with their stake in Larnaca and Paphos airports has been consensus building as has casino operator Barriere in association with Accor Hotels. NagaCorp has the wherewithal to create a successful project posting a more than 25% increase in GGR and net profits for 2015. However, the selection process is guarded in secrecy.
The final three were supposed to have been chosen by now, but there is no indication yet that the license won’t be granted within the calendar year. Once awarded, the successful bidder will be allowed to open temporary facilities immediately and the full scale resort and satellites should be operational within 2 to 3 years.