July 9, 2012 : CYPRUS BANS ONLINE GAMBLING…AND BETTING EXCHANGES (Update)
Unanimous parliamentary vote ends a year of political haggling
After over a year of political haggling and recriminations, Cyprus politicians were finally able to agree Friday to ban online gambling and – despite a last minute attempt to have it excluded – betting exchanges as well.
The controversial measure sets tax levels and authorises the introduction of a gambling board to licence and regulate legal gambling on the Mediterranean island.
It makes provision for the tax on net betting revenues to be distributed to sports and anti-problem gambling organisations, but exempts Greek gaming company OPAP due to a bilateral agreement between Greece and Cyprus.
The exemption has been the cause of often violent protests and property damage by local gangs, presumably involved with angry Cypriot operators who see the exemption as unfair and anti-competitive.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail after the vote, MP and House Legal Affairs chairman Ionas Nicolaou said: “From this day we are handing over to the prosecuting authorities and the state the tools to combat this phenomenon.”
House President Yiannakis Omirou supported his call, urging law enforcement authorities to act as soon as possible against illegal operators.
House Finance Committee chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos took a pragmatic position, saying that the new law would not stop Cypriots from gambling online using offshore websites.