The chairman of Asian casino developer NagaCorp Ltd has confirmed to GGRAsia that his firm is “exploring the market” in the Republic of Cyprus, the Greek portion of that Mediterranean island. “The government passed a new gaming law in recent months,” noted Tim McNally.
He added: “We, like others, are awaiting specifics of a request for proposal process. We are exploring this market as we do others. There is nothing concrete to advise at this point.”
His comments follow a report in the Cyprus Weekly newspaper that six major gaming companies were considering investment on the island (pictured), a popular tourist destination located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
Cyprus legislators in July passed a measure called the Operations and Casino Control Law. Among other things, it sets up a regulator called the Cyprus Casino Gaming Commission (CGC), and allows the licensing of a single so-called “integrated resort” with a casino and leisure facilities, on a 30-year permit.
The law states: “The world class casino shall include at least 100 gaming tables and 1,000 gaming machines. Should the operator wish to install more than 200 gaming tables and/or 2,000 gaming machines, approval from the CGC shall be required.”
The Cyprus casino law mentions plans to impose a 15 percent tax on gross gaming revenue at the country’s proposed integrated resort.
No timetable for choosing an operator is mentioned, but the law outlines there is a pre-selection stage involving a formal expression of interest by companies. A maximum of three pre-selected candidates will then be put forward for consideration, with the final decision made by the country’s Council of Ministers.
Malaysia’s Genting Group and South Africa’s Sun International Ltd, founded by Sol Kerzner, have also been mentioned in local media reports as possible candidates.
NagaCorp, as well as developing and operating the NagaWorld casino resort in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, in May broke ground on a casino project in the Primorye Integrated Entertainment Zone near Vladivostok in the Russian Far East. According to the firm’s 2014 annual report filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the group already has several Cyprus-incorporated companies relating to its Russia venture.
Cyprus and the Russian Federation have long-standing business and investment ties. Yury Spiridonov, president of the Russian Investment Agency, was quoted in March this year saying that in 2013, investments from Cyprus to Russia amounted to US$22.7 billion, while investment from the Russian to the Cyprus economy totalled US$19 billion.
In March 2013, Cyprus received a EUR10-billion (US$11.3-billion) bailout from the so-called ‘troika’ made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
In November last year, Hong Kong-listed Amax International Holdings Ltd – an investor in the Macau junket sector – dropped plans to acquire a majority stake in an offshore firm with an interest in a casino hotel project in northern Cyprus. That part of the island is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
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