In­con­sis­ten­cies shown in state’s han­dling of casino ho­tel in­vest­ment

Cyprus Today - - NEWS - By ANNE CANALP

A LUX­URY new Karaoğlanoğlu ho­tel has high­lighted in­con­sis­ten­cies in the state’s han­dling of casino ho­tel in­vest­ment as it pre­pares to launch to­mor­row with a 5,000m2 casino for which it has not yet re­ceived a li­cence.

The casino fea­tures on­line as one of the at­trac­tions at the Kaya Palazzo Ho­tel, but Fi­nance Min­istry State Prop­er­ties and Ma­te­ri­als Depart­ment head Eralp Münür Pı­nar said: “The casino may not open un­til a li­cence is ob­tained. A pre-per­mit was is­sued [for the ho­tel] which ex­pired af­ter three years and a new pre-per­mit has been is­sued.” Li­cens­ing re­quires Cab­i­net ap­proval. Thirty-one casi­nos cur­rently op­er­ate in North Cyprus — 20 in the Girne area and one more, Zeus, cur­rently un­der­go­ing a re­build; four in Le­fkoşa, three in Gaz­i­mağusa, one in İskele and two in Bafra, one of which is the Kaya Artemis Ho­tel Casino Re­sort also owned by the Kaya Group.

Kaya Palazzo Ho­tel man­ager Hakan Demirçeken said on Thurs­day: “We will open the ho­tel with a soft launch on April 15 but I can­not com­ment on the casino. The casino man­ager will call back.” No re­ply was re­ceived by yes­ter­day, how­ever.

The 35,000m2 sea­side lux­ury Kaya Palazzo has 261 suites and rooms and prom­ises guests a cho­co­late-and-straw­ber­ries wel­come and a one-off com­pli­men­tary cham­pagne break­fast and à la carte din­ner dur­ing their stay. Its web­site fea­tures the 5,000m2 casino with 320 slot ma­chines and 39 live gam­ing ta­bles, a VIP Loca spe­cially de­signed separate gam­ing sa­lon, smart card sys­tem and all ma­chines con­nected to a big win jack­pot sys­tem. Gam­ing ma­chines re­quire an im­port per­mit and were brought in un­der the name of the Kaya Artemis.

Other at­trac­tions in­clude a choice of three à la carte restau­rants, Sky Bar Beirut night­club and a lux­ury 2,000m2 spa and well­ness cen­tre.

The ho­tel project on the site of the former Co­op­er­a­tive Bank-owned Zeyko Olive Oil Fac­tory hit local re­sis­tance in 2016 spark­ing a court case and even­tual gov­ern­ment U-turn on in­creas­ing Girne De­cree plan­ning lim­its in the area from four to seven storeys.

Con­struc­tion was then stalled by a Girne Mu­nic­i­pal­ity court or­der and in­spec­tors re­moved sixth floor form­work be­fore a com­pro­mise so­lu­tion was reached. The Girne De­cree was re­placed in Jan­uary by a lon­gawaited Zon­ing and Con­struc­tion Plan.

Kaya Hold­ings founder and head of the board of di­rec­tors Burhanet­tin Kaya said at the time that prom­ises had been made by the gov­ern­ment since 2014, adding: “Three gov­ern­ments later no progress has been made. Why would I jeop­ar­dise a $60 mil­lion project?”

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ser­dar Denk­taş was re­ported this week as sug­gest­ing that Kaya Hold­ings pur­chase an ex­ist­ing casino li­cence from another op­er­a­tor who had failed to com­plete their own project.

A quota set by gov­ern­ment for the num­ber of casino li­cences has been filled.

Mr Denk­taş was abroad and un­avail­able for com­ment this week and a spokesman for the Casino Op­er­a­tors’ Union said: “Casi­nos are li­censed by gov­ern­ment and it is not our place to com­ment.”

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