The competition is heightening among the large property owners in Cyprus as the three contenders for the sole casino license on the eastern Mediterranean island prepare to choose the location for their investment.

Cyprus Weekly was told by an inside source that, “Two of the bidders are holding talks with large property owners in Larnaca and one in Limassol.” The Church of Cyprus and almost all of the big developers comprise the island’s large property owners. The preferred bidders were announced in March 2015 and consist of Philippine casino developer, Bloomberry Resorts Corporation; NagaCorp Ltd., the Hong Kong stock exchange listed Cambodian casino operator; and Melco/Hard Rock Resort Cyprus Consortium, a venture of Macau’s Lawrence Ho and the U.S. based Hard Rock International.

According to their initial bid, Limassol was chosen by the Melco/Hard Rock Resort Cyprus Consortium and Larnaca was NagaCorp Ltd’s choice. And while Bloomberry Resorts Corporation decided not to specify a location, last year when the final three contenders for the license were announced local sources indicated that Bloomberry was eyeing Paphos.

The news source was told by a Commerce Ministry official that an area did not have to be specified by companies in the first round and that in order for the companies to have leverage over the price of the land, they could change now. July 5 is the deadline for project details to be submitted by participants of the second round of licensing. The official said, “Location is important for the state only if it adds value to tourism and helps expand the tourism period. Investment on land does not add value to what we regard as foreign investment.” The investment could reach as much as €500 million, according to the Cypriot government.

Any location, mix of amenities, and gaming configuration may be chosen by the three investors as long as their final proposal plans include at least 500 luxury hotel rooms, 1,000 gaming machines, and 100 gaming tables. The competition process will take care of all other amenities and details. The Cyprus gaming license is expected to be awarded by September, with the resort opening by 2019.

A 30-year license will be awarded to the winner of the final round, with the possibility of competing licenses being issued in 15 years. A satellite casino and three slots-only casinos will also be able to be built by the winner as soon as the license is awarded so that revenue may be generated for what is expected to be the “leading integrated casino resort in Europe and among the best in the world,” according to the licensing update last year.

According to estimates by the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism, a casino resort in Cyprus could add up to 500,000 more tourists annually, compared with the current number of approximately 2.4 million. Hundreds of job opportunities would also be created.

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