The Cypriot Parliament have unanimously voted through a controversial bill regulating gaming, which includes a ban on online gamblimg and exchange betting.

Betting exchange is where players bet among themselves with the mediation of a company, which receives a commission from the transactions.
The provision had been removed in committee but was resubmitted and pushed through by a respectable margin.

The new law also regulates legal betting, providing for a tax on the net betting revenue – after winnings are subtracted.
In addition betting shops will pay an additional contribution of 3.0 per cent on net revenue, which will be paid to a gaming board to be set up.
The board will then transfer the contribution to the Cyprus Sports Federation, which will allocate 1.5 per cent to the Cyprus Football Association, 0.5 per cent to other sports associations, and 1.0 per cent to special programmes dedicated to fight gambling addiction.

The bill exempts gaming company OPAP – which runs the lottery and other games of chance – because the company operates under a bilateral agreement between Greece – its base – and Cyprus.

The bill regulating gaming in general has been languishing at the House as deputies argued over its provisions while the state continued to lose billions in tax revenues from online casinos, which were shooting up on every street corner.

Reportedly some deputies had received threats from the operators of online casinos, and in recent weeks there have been nine arson and other attacks on OPAP outlets islandwide, believed to be connected to its exemption from the bill. When the bill was submitted last year, lawmakers had been handed a letter signed by eight companies offering online casino games, alleging that the bill favoured OPAP.

Only two weeks ago five men were gunned down in Ayia Napa in what are believed to be a gambling-related murders. Deputies welcomed the passage of the law yesterday.

“From this day we are handing over to the prosecuting authorities and the state the tools to combat this phenomenon,” said House Legal Affairs Committee chairman Ionas Nicolaou.
He said that with the connivance of some in law enforcement, Cyprus had become an open casino, and these companies were likely the only ones making money in the current climate.

House President Yiannakis Omirou urged the authorities to act on implementing the new law “to remove this cancer form the bowels of Cypriot society”.

House Finance Committee chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos said however that despite the law, those who want to continue gambling online will simply do so at home.


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