Greek Cypriots unveil plans for first casino resort, following in the footsteps of the island's north
NICOSIA - Agence France-Presse
People sit at a coffee shop as on a wall reading in Greek 'The people in Cyprus make revolution with frappe (coffee) in their hands,' at the old city of capital Nicosia, June 21. AP photoGreek Cyprus ministers approved plans on July 18 for a first casino resort in the government-held south of the Mediterranean island as they scramble to woo investment to offset a deep recession.
There have long been multiple casinos in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island, but opposition from the influential Greek Orthodox Church and misgivings among many Greek Cypriots about the social dangers of gambling have meant they remain illegal in the south.
The parliament is currently in recess, but when MPs return in September they will be asked to approve legislation to end the ban on casinos.
The plan approved by the cabinet on July 18 foresees a single super-casino resort, intended to attract big spenders to the holiday island which is more dependent than ever on tourism after its once lucrative banking sector was ravaged by the eurozone debt crisis.
"The council of ministers decided today to grant one licence for the creation of an integrated casino resort in Cyprus," government spokesman Christos Stylianides told reporters.
He said that once the necessary legislation has been passed, the tendering process will be fast-tracked with a view to awarding the contract within 12 months.
The plans would once have been deeply controversial on an island where the influence of the orthodox church still runs deep.
But austerity measures imposed by international creditors in return for 10 billion euros ($13 billion) in emergency loans have taken a heavy toll on jobs and wages, and opposition has begun to wane.