Minister will give position on casinos after Easter

The commerce Minister is expected to give his final position on the creation of casinos after Easter, he said yesterday.

Minister Antonis Paschalides was yesterday invited to the House Commerce Committee to update deputies on how the situation was progressing.

In the latest meeting, the minister said he was in the process of examining a survey by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) on the feasibility of building casinos in Cyprus and how this would affect the state’s economy.

Yesterday, Paschalides said he would send the specific survey to the Committee but asked that no information was leaked out until the government is in a position to announce its official stance on the matter. He added that the survey would also be presented to the Finance, Interior and Justice Ministers to offer their opinions.

He reminded deputies of President Demetris Christofias’ opposition to casinos, his view being that it would have adverse social consequences.

Christofias said recently that as long as he was President there would be no casino in Cyprus.

Asked why the issue was even being considered seeing that Christofias was so opposed to it, Paschalides said his ministry had an obligation to examine all possibilities before approving or rejecting it.

According to the minister, there is a huge gap in local legislation when it comes to gambling and this is not just a problem in Cyprus but other European states too, which was why the European Commission was in the process of examining the matter.

Paschalides said building casinos in Cyprus had its advantages and disadvantages, both financially and socially.

“Casinos offering free access to all without restrictions would be catastrophic and if a country like Cyprus builds casinos, this will have to be done with safety clauses and restrictions, based on people’s income,” he explained.

“Most tourists that arrive in Cyprus do not pay special emphasis to the existence of casinos; it is a small proportion of tourists who wish to visit casinos,” Paschalides added.

Speaking after the meeting, Committee Chairman Lefteris Christoforou of DISY said bureaucracy and delays in taking important decisions were having an adverse effect on the state’s economy and society.

Delays and indecisiveness in plans to create casinos was part of this negative effect, he added.

“We are calling on the government to take on its responsibilities and make a final decision,” said Christoforou, adding that the matter demanded bold decisions.

Surveys into the matter have so far shown that Cyprus is in need of boosting its tourist product, said Christoforou, and provided all dimensions are taken into consideration to avert any social problems, casinos are a move a in the right direction.

DIKO deputy Angelos Votsis wondered what President Christofias was planning to do about the illegal casinos that are popping up all over Cyprus, as a result of his opposition to the matter.

He also criticised Paschalides for dragging his heels in examining the CTO survey, while calling on the government to take the casinos in the occupied areas into consideration when examining the social effects.

“DIKO takes into consideration the social and financial consequences and the effects on tourism, but mainly it takes into consideration the fact that €100 million goes to the occupied areas and a further estimated €100 million are spent on electronic gambling in Cyprus,” said Votsis.

But EDEK’s George Varnavas said it was wrong to take the money spent in the occupied areas and illegal gambling as an excuse to build casinos in Cyprus.

“We first need to clarify what kinds of casinos we wish to create in the free areas; will anyone be able to go to them or will there be safety clauses?” Varnava wondered.