Casino “fast track” slows down again
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.