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14 July, 2024
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Casino dash before new Cabinet raises eyebrows

House committee fends off Anastasiades administration that wants to fill three spots on casino commission


A House committee in the Republic of Cyprus is blocking three appointments on a casino commission until after the new Cabinet takes shape on March 1, with members raising conflict of interest concerns and the outgoing government insisting it should be allowed to fill the vacant positions now.

Tourism Deputy Minister Savvas Perdios has called on members of parliament on the Commerce Committee to green-light the assignment of three positions on the Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Commission, an appointment that must take place by the executive after consent from the legislative branch.

According to local media, the Cabinet has been trying to push forward with appointments of three positions after they became vacant on February 5, when their tenure ended on the same day the first round of election took place.

But recent Cabinet efforts to rush new appointments were met with resistance from the House committee, where a majority of members argued any new assignments were too close to the presidential election.

But recent Cabinet efforts to rush new appointments were met with resistance after most members from the House committee argued any new assignments were too close to the presidential election

Daily Politis on Tuesday said Perdios had sent a letter to legislators on February 12, the day of the runoff election, seeking approval for the Cabinet to go ahead with the appointments.

But a number of issues emerged after some MPs in January had raised concern over conflict of interest for at least one candidate, while others argued it should be up to the next Cabinet to appoint the three vacant positions.

Perdios has reportedly argued in his letter that the casino commission cannot function properly and in accordance with regulations if it does not have seven members.

Opponents say the next commission meeting, set to take place on Wednesday, can take place without problems, pointing to other appointments that outgoing President Nicos Anastasiades did not rush to fill before President-elect Nikos Christodoulides, who also served in the current cabinet, takes over next month.

The casino commission consists of seven members, all of whom were appointed by Anastasiades based on a law passed in 2015 that provided a single license for an operator to develop an Integrated Casino Resort and four satellite casinos.

Melco Resorts, which won the bid, is expected to open launch in 2023 the City of Dreams Mediterranean, a €550 million project viewed as a game-changer for island’s tourism industry.

But the country’s enormous investment was not without challenges.

During the country’s golden passport scandal, when it emerged in 2020 that an citizenship-investment program was riddled with irregularities, a House Audit committee heard that 18 out of a selection of 23 cases had to do with a resort casino project in Cyprus, with an interior ministry official saying there were orders to expedite applications “in an effort to support foreign investments in the country.”

In September 2022 a finance ministry official weighed in on the issue, saying 11 Americans, 1 Canadian, and 3 European nationals were among those who did not qualify for citizenship but their naturalization came about “to recognize their role in the enormous [casino] investment.”

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