Cyprus weighs online gambling ban

The Cyprus cabinet has voted in favor of banning all online gambling, the Associated Press reports.
A member of the European Union since 2004, Cyprus’ actions may put it in the path of EU regulators, which tend to enforce the EU’s mandates allowing not online Internet gambling in all European members but also inter-border online gambling, too.
The bill still needs legislative approval, according to deputy government spokesman Christos Christofides. But if passed, it will “eliminate unclear provisions under the existing law,” the Associated Press report states.
“Under the draft law, online games including poker, roulette and slot machines will be banned,” the report continues. “Lotteries and sports betting will be permitted to those 18-years old and over. Lawful establishments will be taxed 3 per cent on their revenue instead of the current 10 per cent on profits to discourage cheating.”

The opposition lines up
The media has come out largely against the planned ban. The country’s major news source, the Cyprus Mail, recently published an editorial stating that the government’s proposal represented a very inconsistent attitude towards gambling. (Sound familiar, Washington?)
“Banning online gambling will not make it disappear, but rather go underground, under the total control of criminal organisations, without any protection offered to the gamblers,” the editorial argues. “Deputies should take note of this when they finally vote on the bill.”
Greece’s OPAP to benefit
There’s also been the inevitable backlash from business owners and managers in the online casino business. Those business representatives complained that a ban would “give a complete monopoly to Greek gaming company OPAP (Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics), which operates Joker, Proto, Kino and Lotto and alleged the bill had been drafted by someone connected with the company,” the Mail article adds.
As if to underline those fears, the OPAP itself bought several full-page newspaper ads just a day after the bill was announced. The ads tell Cyprus residents (or Cypriots) about the €117,081,295 that OPAP paid out in prize money to Cypriots.
And OPAP would probably be allowed to continue courting the Cyprus market, even if the ban goes into effect. “Attorney-general Petros Clerides insisted OPAP games were completely different as they were legitimate and operated under an inter-state agreement,” the Mail article adds.
The Mail article also sides with the local economy’s needs, without condemning OPAP. “Betting on horse racing or football matches and playing games of chance offered by OPAP is respectable gambling, and the state is happy to tax these,” the editorial argues.
“Online casino gambling sprung up because of loop-holes in the law and appears to be controlled by the underworld. If it was made to operate within a legal framework and tightly state regulated, perhaps the criminal element would be eliminated.”