The government of Cyprus intends to license and regulate online sports betting but ban other forms of online gambling, including poker.
A draft law on the matter has been prepared for submission to the European Commission, which will give its input on E.U. compliance issues. A vote on a final bill is expected before the end of 2010.
“It is a very important bill, which tries to resolve a problem that has developed into a social scourge in recent years,” Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said. “These casinos have been created on every corner of Cyprus and anyone, young or old, can basically gamble in the same way it is done in casinos abroad.”
According to the Cyprus Mail, about 400 locations around the island currently provide the means for online gaming under a “quasi-legal status” owing to the absence of legislation. When authorities raid a location and seize equipment, the operators merely replace the computers and are back in business the following day. In the draft law is a provision for sealing the premises for the duration of the prosecution.
The draft legislation does not specify a tax rate for online sports betting, but Stavrakis said it could be 10 percent. The use of cash would be prohibited, with all transactions occurring via credit card or electronic account. A gaming board with licensing powers would be created. The draft was approved unanimously.
The government has estimated that as much as €2.5 billion is being wagered online annually, although other estimates put the total at several hundreds of millions. The population of the island is 1.1 million.