Larnaca airport a good spot for a casino

The island’s airport operator, Hermes, is flirting with the idea of introducing a casino at Larnaca Airport, despite the President’s open stance against gambling, said a Hermes source yesterday.

Hermes’ chairman Nicos Shacolas reportedly wrote a letter to the House Commerce Committee suggesting that opening a casino at the airport would be necessary and useful, given Cyprus’ position as a tourist destination.

However, it is not yet clear whether Shacolas wants to open a casino at the new airport, or in the building of the existing airport, soon to be abandoned, or both.

A Hermes source said the letter simply floated some ideas but that no official proposal had been made yet.

“Different views are being put on the table, examining how to attract tourists and businessmen either in the existing building or the new one,” they said.

The new airport will be ready by July this year, while the opening date has been set for November. In the meantime, the operator is exploring ways to make use of the old building on the one hand, while on the other, providing the best facilities in the new airport. Various ideas have been floated for the existing building, including casinos, a hotel, café/restaurant and shops.

The agreement between the operator and the government provides for Hermes’ management of the old and new airports for 25 years.

On casinos, the source said: “It’s very early to tell yet. The situation is very fuzzy at the moment.”

Asked to comment on Hermes’ desire to open a casino in Larnaca, Communications Minister Nicos Nicolaides was quoted in Phileleftheros saying: “The issue of creating and operating casinos in Cyprus is a larger issue which the president has given his position on. It cannot be dealt with on its own or without wider inspection of the issue.”

However, the minister said he was waiting for Hermes’ official proposal which he would examine along with all other stakeholders.

Last week, Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides told parliament he expected to give his final position on the creation of casinos after Easter.

Addressing the House Commerce Committee, 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.

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.

When asked why the issue was even being considered, Paschalides said his ministry had an obligation to examine all possibilities before approving or rejecting it.

The minister noted that if casinos were to be opened in Cyprus, it would have to be “with safety clauses and restrictions, based on people’s income”.

During the committee meeting, DIKO deputy Angelos Votsis noted that EUR 100 million goes to casinos in the occupied areas and a further estimated EUR 100 million is spent on electronic gambling in Cyprus.