As expected, officials in Nicosia today announced the final three contenders for a single casino license in Cyprus. The preferred bidders who will enter the final round with a clean slate and equal footing to win are NagaCorp Ltd., the Hong Kong stock exchange listed Cambodian casino operator — Melco/Hard Rock Resort Cyprus Consortium, a venture of Macau’s Lawrence Ho and the U.S. based Hard Rock International — and Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, a Philippine casino developer expanding worldwide on the success of their Solaire projects.
Local reports are indicating that NagaCorp is looking to develop in Larnaca, Hard Rock in Limassol, and Bloomberry at Paphos. The three are among eight who initially expressed interest in the tender process and the names have been widely speculated and reported on as the announcement approached. The suitors are now free to choose any location, any mix of amenities, and any gaming configuration they choose for the final round of competition as long as their final proposal plans for at least 500 luxury hotel rooms, 1,000 gaming machines, and 100 gaming tables. All other amenities and details have been left to the competition process. The license is expected to be awarded by September, with the resort opening by 2019.
Of those who did not make the final round, it has recently been reported that a consortium including Trump Organization LLC, of Manhattan – Navegante of Las Vegas, and Aktor of Cyprus has expressed concern that their bid was not entered into the final round. Earlier reports named the venture as Golden Lady Consortium and claimed French and EU gaming giant Partouche, rather than Cypriot contractor Aktor was the third party in that bid. Reports indicate that the Trump project was slated for the capital city of Nicosia. None of the aforementioned names are without past or current controversies surrounding them.
The winner of the final round will be awarded a 30 year license with the possibility of competing licenses being issued in 15 years. They will also be able to build a satellite casino and three slots-only casinos as soon as the license is awarded in order to generate revenues for what is expected to be the “leading integrated casino resort in Europe and among the best in the world,” the licensing update noted. Suggestions by the government include conference, meeting, and convention facilities, paid for and complimentary attractions, sports venues and facilities, retail and dining venues, recreational amenities, entertainment venues, and tourist services.
The final three bidders were chosen based on their understanding of the Cyprus market as well as experience in building and operating successful casino resorts.
“The ministry expresses its satisfaction with the level of interest demonstrated and looks forward to a successful completion of the process, as provided by law,” the government said in a statement.
Currently, only illegal casinos operate in the south, although many “grey area” casinos are thriving in the UN “blue zone” dividing the country. Many opulent as well as roadside casinos operate in the Turkish controlled north.
The casino licensing procedure has been fast tracked but includes strict controls and regulations for the tender and ongoing operations. The mega-resort development is intended to bring a much needed shot in the arm to the Cypriot economy that has been steadily recovering after a difficult debt bailout in 2013 nearly devastated it.