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Gambling in Cyprus

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The Republic of Cyprus is an entirely unitary state, without any provinces or other federal orregional structures.

The Cypriot government has for some time been considering whether and how to undertakea substantial revision of Cypriot gambling law, in particular so as to permit the supply ofcasino gaming services, which is presently prohibited. We understand that draft legislation tothat effect is currently being finalised by the various legal services of the Republic. However,it has not yet been published and has not been submitted to the Cypriot parliament forconsideration, so it will not be dealt with further in this report.

The Betting Bill 2006, on the other hand, has been published and as the text is available(albeit only in Greek), we will include it in the listing of relevant Cypriot legal materials, eventhough it falls outside the temporal scope of our Study, in that it was published after 31December 2005. The aim of this draft legislation was to reform Cypriot law governing fixedoddsbetting on horse racing and other sports events before the beginning of the 2006 FIFAWorld Cup. The Bill did not pass the committee stage before the Cypriot Parliament was dissolved in anticipation of a General Election. It is therefore completely unclear whether theBill will subsequently be reintroduced into the legislative process. (1)

Cypriot legislation already makes provision for purely “offshore” betting services to beprovided from Cyprus. The Cypriot government is permitted to make arrangements for theissuance of licenses allowing companies set up in Cyprus by foreign operators to providepool betting services to punters outside Cyprus. This option, which would neverthelessprevent Cypriot operators from offering pool betting services to punters in other Member States and prevent the licensed foreign operators from offering pool betting services topunters in Cyprus, has not (yet) been exercised by the Cypriot government.

Definitions

Sec. 2 of the Law on Betting Houses, Gambling Houses and the Restriction of Gamblingcontains an indirect definition of the general concept of gambling. Thus, the fact of “beinginvolved in gambling” is defined to mean “playing or being involved in any game of luck orany game involving both luck and skill, for money or money’s worth”.

According to subsection 2(1) of the Lotteries Law, a “lottery” is defined extremely widely toinclude “any scheme for the distribution of prizes by drawing or by means which depend onchance”. (2) It seems that this definition is wide enough to include bingo. Thus, clause (b1) ofsection 15, which was introduced by Law No. 71 of 1986, permits the Minister of Finance toissue a license to the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation to conduct lotteries broadcast onradio television. A license has in fact been issued under that clause to permit the Corporationto run its highly successful “Super Bingo” game. Similarly, clause (b) permits the Minister ofFinance to issue licenses allowing lotteries to be run in order to raise money for anycharitable purposes approved by him. Church committees and other charities wishing to runbingo games in order to raise funds for building or repairing churches or for other approvedcharitable purposes are regularly issued lottery licenses under that clause. (2)

Under sec. 2 of the Collective Bets (Regulation and Taxation) Law 1997, the concept of a“collective bet” is defined to mean“… a bet held by a number of persons participating in the bet:-

(a) on the terms that the winnings shall be distributed or determined proportionally to thewhole amount of the sums paid or agreed to be paid by the persons participating in thebet; or

(b) on the terms that the winnings shall be or shall include a sum (not determined in relationto the sum paid or agreed to be paid by such persons) distributable in any proportionbetween such persons; or

(c) on the basis that the winners or their winnings, to any extent, shall be determined in theunfettered judgment of the persons running the bet or any other person”.

This definition effectively covers all forms of pool or totalisator betting.

(1) This information and the text of the Betting Bill 2006 were provided to the authors by SAKOP.The official status of the Bill was confirmed to us by the Cypriot Ministry of Finance, incorrespondence dated 5 May 2006.

(2) Unofficial translation commissioned by the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law.

(3) This information was provided by SAKOP, in a letter dated 19 August 2005 and clarified by theCypriot Ministry of Finance, in correspondence dated 5 May 2006.

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