The Republic of Cyprus has started blocking numerous unauthorized online gambling sites as it braces itself for the launch of its regulated sports betting market. In October 2016, the National Betting Authority (EAS) began accepting applications for new online sports betting licenses, to operate in the newly regulated local market and cautioned operators who failed to apply that their services would be blocked.
A blacklist consisting of operators that have either continued operating in the Cypriot market without being authorized to do so or have missed the deadline for a certain reason was put together and on the 28th of November, representatives from the EAS, reported that they’d begun blocking the domains of an around 2,500 gambling websites that had been providing their services to Cypriot punters without a license from the country’s Government.
Cyprus’ 2012 gambling law, forbids online casino games, exchange betting and poker. The EAS representatives reported that they were mainly targeting online casino websites that failed to procure the Governments authorization to operate, as the government was utilizing this online gambling sector to boost its tax revenue.
The issue of the Greek lottery operator OPAP’s monopoly over lottery games in Cyprus was also discussed at the finance committees’ meeting. In 2003, under an interstate agreement between Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, OPAP was required to pay €10 million in taxes annually, for the right to be the sole provider of all lottery products. However, in 2013 despite OPAP’s revenue doubling after the launch of its new Kino game, only a marginal increase of €2.3 million was added to the original tax.
In 2014, a year after the Greek government sold one-third of its stake in OPAP, the Cypriot Government intended on terminating the intestate agreement in order to introduce new lottery regulations that would delineate the specific perks a lottery monopoly provider might enjoy. However, this plan was subsequently dropped.
A couple weeks ago, an Auditor General’s review established that the Republic had been losing €1 million a month under its existing OPAP deal. This prompted the OPAP deal to be re-evaluated and a bill to be introduced to the legislative assembly that would require the lottery licensee to pay a 24% tax on annual gross profits with a minimum payment of €20 million per year, if the 24% gross profit share does not exceed €20 million.
As anticipated, OPAP has rejected the proposition that it’s not paying its fair share and claims that the state earns a lot more from OPAP than the company does from the Cypriot market.