24 Feb 2017

Cyprus and Hong Kong putting Bets Together

Looks like Cyprus finally will acquire the long-rumored casino-resort. Two days ago the country’s Finance Minister Harris Georgiades announced the deal for building the casino is due to be sealed in coming weeks. The announcement came after he had a meeting with the parliamentary committee on the development of the plans, resolving how public spending will be controlled.

The gaming venue will be built by Melco-Hard Rock consortium and the work is about to start in the middle of this year in Limassol. The Hong Kong based consortium won the bid for opening the first casino in Cyprus in October last year after the other two competitors on the short list – Cambodian Nagacorp and Bloomberry of the Philippines – resigned from the competitions just few days before the deadlines. Melco International Development is multi-national consortium which includes Melco International Development Limited, Hard Rock International and Cyprus Phasouri Limited. In addition, the company “operates the Studio City Casino Macau via its Melco Crown Entertainment Limited joint venture with Australian firm Crown Resorts Limited”. CEO and chairman of the company is Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, 41-yearld Hong Kong billionaire, often referred as a “game changer” on the Asian gambling market.

Melco-Hard Rock will receive a license to operate a so called integrated casino resort which, apart from gambling facilities, includes hotel facilities, entertainment shows, theme parks, luxury retail and fine dining. The license is for a period of 30 years, from which the first 15 years they will be assured a monopoly of the market with satellite casinos and  three slot-machine places around the island.

“We have already received the licensing documents from the consortium”, Mr. Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism confirmed: “A deadline extension had been requested so that we can move ahead with a due diligence report.  We expect in the coming weeks that the Games Committee will move ahead to sign the license.” Lakkotrypis added, “It is very possible that we will have a temporary casino during the second half of 2017.”

Still, three months after winning the bid for building the first casino in Cyprus, the investors haven’t found locations either for the main resort or the satellites casinos in the other cities. The most likely spot for building the casino is said to be west of the port in Limassol but that information has no official confirmation. As is the question of the location of the temporary casino.  Rumors recently put it in the famous Monte Caputo night life spot just outside Limassol, but that news was denied by the owner of the land, who said he hasn’t agreed to anyone renting his land.

Another curious issue is with the tobacco smoking permission in the future casino. Originally, the government approved permission for smoking on the territory of the resort but the opposition pointed that this decision contradicts with EU legislation that bans indoor smoking. As a counterpoint to that, the government defended the decision as crucial for the success of the project, pointing out that the smoking ban caused the failure of similar projects in Spain. The debates are still open.

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