Casino “fast track” slows down again

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The govern­ment an­nounced that it will pro­ceed with a “fast track” process to fi­nalise the le­gal frame­work, in­vite bid­ders and choose the li­cen­sor who will op­er­ate an in­te­grated casino re­sort mega-project, all within a year from to­day.

As much as the news may be mu­sic to the ears of in­vestors and or­di­nary folk who want to see turn­around in the econ­omy and in par­tic­u­lar the tourism and con­struc­tion sec­tors, the plan is ac­tu­ally be­hind sched­ule, twice.

The slow­down in the process also raises con­cerns about the govern­ment’s com­mit­ments to keep to dead­lines it has de­clared.

In May, En­ergy, Trade and Tourism Min­is­ter Yior­gos Lakkotrypis had told a closed-door par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee meet­ing that the govern­ment had fi­nalised the pol­icy doc­u­ment and was pre­par­ing the leg­is­la­tion to be sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment later that month.

He said that af­ter par­lia­ment passes the law, the Min­istry would be able to is­sue the li­cence within about eight months in an open li­cens­ing pro­ce­dure, with the op­er­a­tion per­mits es­ti­mate to be al­lo­cated in Spring 2015, far from the end-2014 time­frame pro­posed by the con­sul­tants ear­lier this year.

On March 5, the govern­ment signed a con­tract with the ad­vi­sory firm Deloitte Ltd, which was se­lected on Jan­uary 29 fol­low­ing an in­ter­na­tional pub­lic ten­der, to pro­vide con­sult­ing ser­vices for the li­cens­ing of an in­te­grated casino re­sort.

The con­sul­tants held a first meet­ing on Fe­bru­ary 20 with the mem­bers of the com­pe­tent Min­is­te­rial and Steer­ing Com­mit­tees, set up to pro­ceed with the project’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The plan, which will de­ter­mine how many casino-re­sort li­cences will be awarded and in which dis­tricts, was al­ready two months be­hind sched­ule as the govern­ment had ini­tially de­clared that it would adopt a fast-track process by De­cem­ber last year in an ef­fort to speed up devel­op­ment, boost em­ploy­ment and in­vest­ment.

On Fri­day, Govern­ment spokesman Ni­cos Christodoulides said the du­ra­tion of the li­cence will be 30 years, with the govern­ment col­lect­ing a 15% tax on gross rev­enues while the op­er­a­tor will re­tain ex­clu­siv­ity for the first 15 years.

The spokesman added that it was the first time pro­ce­dures for a project of this size were mov­ing at such a fast pace and that this would be the largest in­vest­ment of its kind.

The frame­work is ex­pected to be posted on En­ergy, Trade and Tourism Min­istry web­site this week­end.

The casino project will in­clude restau­rants and other recre­ation ar­eas, while the lo­ca­tion will be se­lected by the in­vestor, while the op­er­a­tor and the new gam­ing au­thor­ity to be es­tab­lished may have the op­tion to grant sub-li­censes for other ac­tiv­i­ties and in other ar­eas.

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