In the same week in June 2017 that Melco and CNS Group were sealing the terms of the new Cypriot casino licence, talks were beginning again in Switzerland with the aim of solving the “Cyprus problem” relating to Turkey’s occupation of the north of the island. As GBGC found out when assessing the new casino in 2014, politics and gaming are heavily intertwined in Cyprus.
There are currently no legal casinos in Cyprus. But there is a number of casinos and casino resorts in the disputed region of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). GBGC visited many of these casinos, several of which are substantial and luxurious venues. At present they cater for mainly Turkish customers, who often visit on long-weekend trips.
If Cyprus is eventually re-unified, the issue of these TRNC casinos comes into focus. Melco-CNS’ licence runs for 30 years and includes a monopoly on gaming in Cyprus for the first 15 years. The consortium would presumably not want competition from the existing TRNC casinos if the whole island is opened up to unrestricted travel. Equally, the TRNC operators will not want to lose the investment they have made in their properties.
Melco-CNS is investing EUR 500 million in its Cyprus project and the main casino will be in Limassol. The first phase is planned for completion in 2020 and will include 70,000 square feet of gaming space, 1,200 slots, 130 gaming tables, and a 6,000 square foot VIP “Casino in the Sky” area.
The licence also allows for a temporary casino in Limassol and four further satellite venues in the capital Nicosia, Larnaca, Paphos and Ayia Napa. They are expected to open in 2018.
But the Cyprus problem remains unresolved for now. At the close of the Swiss conference in July 2017 the UN Secretary General stated:
“I am deeply sorry to inform you that, despite the very strong commitment and the engagement of all the delegations and the different parties … the Conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached.”
Responding to a question as to the reasons for the lack of agreement, he simply said:
“It is clear that there was still a considerable distance between the delegations on a number of issues and that agreement was not possible.”