Plans to attract more tourists on Cyprus holidays by relaxing gambling laws to allow casinos to open have been put on hold.
Late last year Cyprus ministers announced legislation was being prepared for the creation of casinos across Cyprus.
It was hoped that casinos would attract more visitors on Cyprus holidays and bring is more foreign revenue to help the countries troubled economy.
But a bill regulating gambling is still under discussion and the Cyprus government has given no indication of when it will be passed and what form it will eventually take.
It appears the ruling AKEL political party is having second thoughts about giving approval for the creation of casinos.
The party said it is still waiting for the results of its own study into gambling before deciding on the issue.
Critics argue that the cost of social ill-effects of legalising casinos in Cyprus could outweigh any projected revenue from casinos.
They claim legalised casinos in Cyprus could increase gambling addiction, criminality and prostitution.
But supporters say that Government lotteries, scratch cards, horse racing and football betting are all already legal in Cyprus.
The proposed bill, already approved by the cabinet, includes a ban on online gambling and only allows betting with coupons. It also creates an independent authority, or gaming board to regulate all aspects of betting.
The Cyprus cabinet approved the draft bill to outlaw all forms of online gambling in March 2011 but the bill still requires legislative approval.
With the exception of sports betting and lotteries, all forms of land-based gambling are illegal in siuth Cyprus.
However, a loophole in the law allows Cypriot citizens to gamble online if they are playing at online casinos or poker rooms located overseas.
The draft bill would make all gambling illegal, online or offline, except for lotteries and sports betting for those over 18 years of age with penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €170,000.
North Cyprus however already has around 20 casinos and many wealthy visitors from Turkey are regular guests in hotel and holiday village casinos that offer games such as blackjack, poker, and roulette.
Some of the best-known casinos in Kyrenia are Grand Rock Hotel Casino, Jasmine Court Casino, Club Acapulco, Dome Casino and Chateau Casino. The top Nicosia casinos are City Royal and Saray Casino and well-known casinos in Famagusta are Salamis Bay Conti and Palm Beach Hotel.
Words by Dave Sewell
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