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Casino Debate in Greek Cyprus

Research on the island of Cyprus showing that each year 330,000 to 400,000 Greek Cypriots visit the Turkish-controlled northern regions of the island to gamble in casinos there has led to a debate about whether or not to build land casinos in the southern, internationally recognized Greek regions of Cyprus (the Turkish controlled northern Cypriot government is recognized only by Turkey). If the figures are correct, it is believed that over 44 million Cypriot pounds are spent by these Greek gamblers at northern casino locations, making opening a casino in the south a viable alternative. But while some in the south are in favor of opening a casino or multiple casinos in southern Cyprus, not everyone is behind the idea.

One Greek Cypriot official said that “The creation of casinos will help to give quality service to tourists visiting the island and to Greek Cypriots interested in casinos gambling, instead of the sleazy, low-class game clubs in the north. The decision on whether to build a casino will be taken by the government after the Cyprus Tourism Office finalizes its full report on the gambling phenomenon.” But representatives of SAKO, the Association Confronting Social Problems, is decidedly against the possibility of a casino opening in Greek Cyprus.

“It is worth noting the potential cost to the national economy for the treatment of compulsive gamblers,” a spokesman for SAKO said. “There are 616,700 persons aged 12 and in the free (Greek) areas. According to the Centre for Research on Human Behavior, an NGO based in Athens, Greece, the cost of treatment per gambling addict is 9,000 Cyprus pounds. So multiply 6,167 – the conservative 1 percent estimate for those likely to become addicted to casino gambling – by 9,000 and you get a cost of 55,503,000 Cyprus pounds; assume the figure is more likely to be two per cent, and the cost to the taxpayer rises to 111,006,000. This is just the cost of treatment: it does not include casino-linked criminality.”

OCA News Editor

Jenny McKinnley is OCA’s financial correspondent. After spending years on the trading floor in both NY and London, she offers insight from the inside out on world financial news and events.