I OVERVIEW

This chapter seeks to address the main areas underpinning the legislative framework governing gambling activities in Cyprus and offer readers insight, information and guidance in relation to a rapidly evolving and growing industry.

i Definitions

Despite the fact that an all-encompassing definition for the term 'gambling' has proven to be elusive, in Cyprus gambling is understood through the prism of a specific range of activities involving chance or entailing a combination of elements of chance and skill, which activities are classified into three main clusters by reference to the existing gambling legislative framework; betting, gaming and lotteries. Besides, gambling may be regarded as corresponding to the participation in any game of chance or game dependent partly on luck and partly on skill, for money or other valuable consideration.

For the purposes of the Betting Law, 'betting' covers all betting activities (including online betting) carried out with relation to sporting events in which the contestants are natural persons or other events in which natural persons participate by exercising of physical strength and utilising skills,2 and which events do actually take place,3 subject to the condition that the winnings of every player are determined by the person organising each particular bet, prior to or at the time of processing the bet, with reference, not only to the amount each player has paid for his or her participation in the bet, but also with regard to the fixed yield of the particular bet, also known as fixed-odds betting; importantly, a significant development relates to the introduction of the cash-out option.4 By contrast, 'spread betting', defined as the betting, the winnings and the costs of which are (1) not known and cannot be known at the time of placing the bet; (2) depend on the variation of the result; or (3) depend on the extent of such variation, is expressly prohibited.5 Similarly, the term 'pool betting,'6 referring to any kind of bet carried out by a number of persons participating provided that the profits of each winner are determined by the person organising the bet with reference to the total amount paid by the participants or that the profits of each winner are determined by the organiser before the carrying out of the bet with reference to the amount paid by each participant, is no longer applicable in light of the fact that the law introducing such term and its replacement has since been repealed (by subsequent legislation).

Moreover, 'gaming' is a broader definition comprising all and every 'game' or 'game of chance'7 the result of which depends partly on luck and contains elements of luck and skill and which (game) is carried out against payment of money or other value, irrespective of whether it yields any financial benefit or profit to the player.8 In this context, 'casino game' is defined as the game or the game of chance that is partly a game of chance and partly a game of skill, played at a licensed casino using playing cards, dices, equipment (including slot machines, electronic control systems, chips of pre-determined value) or any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device or machine for money, cheques, credit cards or other representative means of value.9 Similarly, 'online table casino' is defined as a kind of casino game, traditionally carried out on a table that contains an electronic device through which bets can be placed in relation to the casino game.10

Lastly, lotteries constitute a peculiar category of gambling in that – according to Cypriot legislation – every lottery is illegal unless falling within any of the exceptions expressly provided for in law.11 In particular, lotteries are defined as those schemes for distributing prizes on a draw or by any other means that depend on chance,12 through the sale and distribution of lottery tickets forming those documents evidencing the entitlement of their holders in the odds of winning the lottery.13 Permitted lotteries include the Cypriot government lottery promoted and carried out by the Director of the Cypriot Government Lottery,14 small lotteries incidental to certain events (subject to the restrictions imposed by the relevant legislation in terms of the use of the proceeds for the sale of the lottery tickets, the nature of the prizes, the terms of conduct of the draw and the incentive of the lottery),15 private lotteries the participation in which is limited by those organising such a lottery, authorised to this end, to the members of a particular organisation the objects of which are not related to gaming, betting or lotteries, persons working in the same premises, persons living in the same premises (subject to the restrictions imposed by the relevant legislation in terms of the use of the proceeds for the sale of the lottery tickets, the notice or advertisement of the lottery, the price of the individual ticket and such other specifications with regards to the content of the lottery tickets and their distribution)16 as well as lotteries governed by specialised legislative instruments.17 In this regard, it is worth noting that there is no legislative framework with regards to free prize draws. Considering that a lottery ticket is purchased for money or other monetary value, free prize draws, in the course of which no lottery tickets are offered for sale or sold, fall outside the scope of Chapter 74 regulating lotteries; therefore, it can reasonably be inferred that such prize draws are permitted.

ii Gambling policy

While gambling is not generally prohibited in Cyprus, its particular aspects are subject to regulation imposing on interested parties, among other things, certain obligations and restrictions. More specifically and in so far as betting activities and casino gaming activities are concerned, Cypriot legislation provides a clear demarcation between land-based and online gambling, explicitly imposing on the interested operator the obligation to be granted a licence with regards to the respective gaming activities.

iii State control and private enterprise

Gambling is owned and operated by the state only to a limited extent while private entities are duly permitted to offer gambling activities subject to the provisions of the respective legislation. In particular, in so far as betting activities are concerned, there are no state-owned betting companies nor does the Cypriot government operate or participate in any way in any company offering betting activities; instead all eligible persons may submit an application to the National Betting Authority for the purpose of being granted an operating licence either under class a (corresponding to land-based betting) or class b (corresponding to online betting) depending on the type of betting activity concerned, respectively; there is no quantitative restriction as to the number of class a or class b licences to be issued by the National Betting Authority. On the other hand, as regards gaming and lotteries, the state is only involved to a limited extent.

Particularly, a state-owned lottery is established according to the Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), promoted and carried out by the Director of the Cypriot Government Lottery, appointed in the office for the specific purpose of organising and coordinating the carrying out of government lotteries, the proceeds from the sale of the tickets of which (following deduction of any amounts for distributed prizes and other expenses and deductions the Council of Ministers may approve) are deposited into the consolidated governmental fund maintained by the government. The governmental lottery, however, does not affect, in any way, the carrying out of small lotteries and other private lotteries, provided that they meet the criteria and restrictions imposed by Sections 6 and 7 of Chapter 74 respectively.

In respect of 'gaming', and casino gaming in particular, although there is no direct involvement of the state, the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015) imposes stricter restrictions in the sense that, within 15 years of the date of the issuing of the initial and exclusive licence for only one privately owned casino resort, the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority, in its capacity as the competent regulator granted with, among others, the power to draft orders, rules and directions, to carry out inspections and to examine applications, is precluded from issuing any other casino resort or other casino licence within Cyprus. This exclusive casino-resort licence is accompanied, subject to the approval of the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority, by the right to establish and operate up to four satellite casinos (each located in a different district of Cyprus) other than and in support of the casino resort, the operation of which is subject to further requirements. Obviously, in contrast to betting, casino gaming legislation establishes a market monopoly.

Going further, there is another aspect of gaming and lotteries, with regards to which the involvement of the government is a bit peculiar. To be more precise, according to the Law on the Ratification of the Treaty between the Republic of Greece and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus (gaming carried out by OPAP SA) (Law 34(III)/2003), which repealed the previous legislative framework namely the Law on the Ratification of the Treaty between the Republic of Greece and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus (gaming carried out by OPAP SA) (Law 13(III)/2001), the Cypriot branch of the Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics SA (OPAP SA), namely OPAP (CYPRUS) LIMITED (OPAP), is vested with the organisation, operation, carrying out and management of a series of games of chance relating to the prediction of random numbers resulting either from a mechanical or electronic draw (LOTTO, PROTO, TZOKER, SUPER 3, EXTRA 5 and KINO)18 and games related to the prediction of the outcome of sports events (PROPO and PROPO GOAL).19 On that basis, it becomes apparent that, by entering into a transnational agreement for the purpose of a foreign (Greek) organisation to undertake such games, the Cypriot government created a monopoly for the benefit of OPAP SA, which, however, is somewhat mitigated by the option granted to private companies to apply for an operating licence of an OPAP agency. In this regard, it is also of particular importance to note that until the repealing of Law 13(III)/2001 by Law 34(III)/2003), all proceeds (after deducting the agents commissions, the prizes as well as all other allowable expenses and deductions) were deposited into the consolidated governmental fund maintained by Cyprus.20 However, this is no longer the case; as of the introduction of Law 34(III)/2003) a Cypriot branch of OPAP SA has been incorporated and all proceeds (after deducting any allowable amounts) are deposited to a bank account owned and operated by OPAP (CYPRUS) LIMITED.21

iv Territorial issues

Gambling is regulated at a national level. Nevertheless, it is worth-noting that owing to the political repercussions of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus back in 1974, which brought about the status quo in Cyprus,22 the effective territorial application of the applicable regulatory framework governing gambling activities is limited to the territory controlled by the Cypriot government. The present chapter is therefore limited to providing an overview of the applicable regulatory framework in Cyprus and does not purport to take into account of the status of gambling activities in the territory controlled by the Turkish armed forces.

v Offshore gambling

Assuming that the reference to services rendered by a licensed person in Cyprus to persons residing outside the territory of Cyprus as well as the references to services rendered by a licensed person outside Cyprus to persons residing in the territory of Cyprus, refer to online activities, it follows that the concerned gambling activities are 'online betting' and 'satellite casino services'. In so far as online betting services are concerned, in the absence of a relevant provision in the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), a licensed person in Cyprus may only provide such online betting services to persons residing outside the territory of Cyprus subject to the regulatory framework applicable in the country of residence of the intended recipients of the aforesaid online betting services. By contrast, the provision of online betting services to persons residing in Cyprus from non-licensed (by the National Betting Authority of Cyprus) entities (whether located in or outside Cyprus) is expressly prohibited. As regards the possibility of a licensed person to provide services relating to satellite casinos to persons residing outside Cyprus, the applicable regulatory framework is clear in that the number of satellite casinos is limited to four, all of which must necessarily be located in Cyprus and can only operate in support to the licensed casino resort. On the other side, the provision of satellite casino services to persons residing in Cyprus from entities outside Cyprus is expressly prohibited by virtue of the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015). In particular, no person may conduct or provide facilities for casino games or gaming machines in Cyprus without a valid licence, issued by the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority.

ii LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

i Legislation and jurisprudence

The gambling industry in Cyprus is regulated by a series of legislative instruments, the most prominent of which are the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019)23 and the Code of Practice in relation to the advertisement of Betting Activities (RDA 350/2017) – to the extent and in so far as its provisions are not inconsistent with the provisions of the Law 37(I)/2019 – regulating betting activities (among others, processing bets with cards and processing electronic bets), the Law on Betting Houses, Gaming Houses and Prevention of Gambling (Chapter 151) regulating specific gambling activities and imposing a criminal liability with regards to the engagement in various other types of gambling activities, the Law on Slot Machines, Skill Machines and Entertainment Machines (Law 32(I)/1996) regulating the ownership, use and exploitation of such machines, the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015) and the (general) Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (RDA 97/2016) issued thereunder governing the establishment, licensing and operation of casinos in Cyprus, the Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), the Law on the Taxation of Profits deriving out of Games of OPAP SA and of the Governmental Lottery (Law 191(I)/2012) and the Law on the Taxation of Horse Racing Betting and Lotteries (Law 48/1973). Furthermore, in view of the inherent risks accompanying such activities, the applicable regulatory framework concerning gambling activities in Cyprus is complemented by the Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering Activities (Law 188(I)/2007).

ii The regulator

According to the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), the regulator of betting industry is the National Betting Authority while, according to the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), casino gaming and related activities are regulated by the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority. In respect of any other gambling activity, excluding betting and casino gaming activities, the competent authorities tasked with ensuring compliance with the requirements of applicable laws are the respective district officer or any other body or authority as may be nominated by virtue of any specialised legislative instruments.

iii Remote and land-based gambling

In Cyprus, both land-based and online gambling is permitted, subject to the provision of the applicable legislation. More specifically, although the national legislation does not expressly distinguish between land-based (premises-based) and online (remote) gambling in general, there are specific provisions with regards to such distinction for specific types of gambling activities, namely for betting activities and casino gaming activities.

As regards betting, according to the provisions of the Betting Law (37(I)/2019), betting activities are divided into land-based betting (within licensed premises) and online betting (excluding slot machines, on-line casino games of chance provided with a direct link and electronic horse racing) that are subject to licensing by the National Betting Authority either under class a (corresponding to land-based betting) or class b (corresponding to online betting) depending on the type of betting activity concerned, respectively. In addition, such a distinction is also made within the context of the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015) that distinguishes between land-based casino and online tabled casino gaming. However, it should be noted that so far as casino gaming is concerned, the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority can issue only one licence for a casino resort, within 15 years as of the date of the issuing of the initial and exclusive casino-resort licence. Besides, the exclusive casino-resort operating licence is accompanied by the right to establish and operate up to four satellite casinos (each located in a different district of Cyprus) other than and in support of the casino resort, the operation of which is subject to further requirements.

iv Land-based gambling

In accordance to the general principle set out in the Law on Betting Houses, Gaming Houses and Prevention of Gambling (Chapter 151), the participation in any game of chance or game depending partly on luck and partly on skill or to any casino game, including the use of slot machines for that purpose, for money or other equivalent value at any place, is prohibited. Nevertheless, depending on the nature of gambling (betting, gaming or lotteries), such activities may be carried out within the venues specifically assigned to this end, subject to and in accordance to the provisions of the respective legislative instrument.

Land-based betting activities (class a betting activities) can only be carried out within licensed premises;24 however, there is no limitation in the number or specific location of such betting premises. A record of all such licensed premises is maintained and updated – from time to time – by the National Betting Authority.25 In this regard, a licence with regards to such premises is valid so long as the class a licence or the class a authorised agent licence, as the case may be, of the bookmaker operating the premises, where betting activities are offered, is in force.26

Moving on to gaming, casino-related games may only be carried out within the licensed casino facilities and the satellite casino facilities, approved by the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority for that specific purpose as well as for the use of slot machines. In contrast to betting premises with regards to which there is no quantitative restriction, within 15 years of the date of the issuing of the initial and exclusive casino-resort licence, the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority is precluded from issuing any other casino resort or other casino licence within Cyprus. Thus, as already mentioned above, only one casino is permitted to operate at this time, the licence of which is accompanied, subject to the approval of the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority, by the right to establish and operate up to four satellite casinos (each located in a different district of Cyprus) other than and in support of the casino resort, the operation of which will be subject to further requirements.

Furthermore, regarding lotteries, the venues assigned for the sale of the lottery tickets and carrying out of the draw depend on the nature of the lottery. So far as the governmental lottery is concerned, it is up to the Director of the Cypriot Government Lottery to determine both the venues for the sale of the lottery tickets and the time, place and manner of the draw for distributing prizes.27 Regarding small lotteries organised incidental to entertainment or festive events or celebrations, there is a restriction that the issue and sale of such lottery tickets shall only take place in the premises where the event or celebration takes place and only at the time such event or celebration takes place.28 Surprisingly, there is no restriction in respect of the venue or venues of sale of the lottery tickets (so long as the lottery tickets are offered for sale by the organisers of such a private lottery) or of the venue where the draw is going to take place; however, the fact that the participation is limited to the members of a particular organisation means that persons living in the same premises can be seen as indirectly restricting the carrying out of such a private lottery.29

Lastly, in so far as games regulated by OPAP are concerned, such games can only be carried out within the premises approved and licensed by OPAP and operated by persons who are approved as authorised agents of OPAP. To this end, a relevant registry of approved authorised agents of OPAP is maintained and updated – from time to time – by OPAP.30

v Remote gambling

Online betting (class b operating licence) is carried out remotely using electronic means through telecommunications, including internet, telephone, television and any means of electronic or other technology.31 In the course and for the purposes of participating in online betting, each player must register by setting up an online user account.32

vi Ancillary matters

In the absence of a regulatory framework governing the manufacturing or usage of key equipment and other ancillary material for the gambling industry, such equipment is subject to inspection and approval by the respective supervisory authority.

Persons employed by or holding key positions within licensed gambling operators are not generally required to acquire a professional licence, with the exception of those persons employed at casinos and satellite casinos regulated by virtue of the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), which are required to be granted a licence issued by the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority.33 Such persons may include casino employees (dealers, engineers, security staff, accounting staff, collection staff, surveillance staff and any other natural persons employed in the casino)34 and casino managers (casino employees having supervisory authorities including department managers, shift managers, cashier supervisor, casino managers, assistant managers and managers and supervisors of the casino's security staff).35

vii Financial payment mechanisms

Although gambling legislation per se does not explicitly impose any specific restrictions on certain types of payment mechanisms the use of payment instruments or mechanisms must be examined in light of the applicable legislation in its entirety. More precisely, so far as the use of financial instruments is concerned, the Law on the Provision of Investment Services and Activities and the Operation of Regulated Markets (Law 144(I)/2007) applies. In particular, the recognised financial instruments are those explicitly listed in the said Law36 while the activities relating to such financial instruments are subject to licensing by Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission in its capacity as the competent supervisory authority. Under the provisions of the Law, it becomes apparent that virtual currencies (a term which includes cryptocurrencies) are not considered 'financial instruments', thereby falling outside the scope of the Law 144(I)/2007. This general rule is subject to an exception in so far as and to the extent that financial contracts for differences (CFD) on virtual currencies are concerned.37 More explicitly, a CFD is a financial instrument that allows traders to invest in assets without actually owning them by agreeing to receive the difference between the current value of the asset and its value in the future. However, it must be underlined that it is up to the Central Bank of Cyprus in conjunction with Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission to decide on the exact way a CFD on virtual currencies will be treated in each particular case. That said and due to the fact that activities relating to virtual currencies are not currently regulated neither at national or European level, such activities are considered especially high-risk owing to the volatile nature of virtual currencies and, as such, these activities are strictly prohibited.

iii THE LICENSING PROCESS

i Application and renewal

As already mentioned above, the applicable regulatory framework imposes an obligation on gambling operators intending to provide betting or casino-gaming activities to apply to the respective competent supervisory authority for the purpose of obtaining a licence.

Persons interested in obtaining a class a (corresponding to land-based betting) or class b (corresponding to online betting) licence or authorised agent licence, must submit a relevant application to the National Betting Authority accompanied by all identification documents, an economic profile containing all financial information and a criminal record pertaining to the applicant (in case of a physical person) or the natural persons related to the applicant namely the directors and ultimate beneficial owners (in case of a legal person);38 the National Betting authority retains the right to request additional information and documentation. Persons applying for a licence valid for a period of one year have to pay a fee in the amount of €30,000 for a class a or class b licence, while a fee in the order of €2,000 applies in respect of applications for an authorised agent licence. These fees are slightly reduced if the corresponding application concerns a two-year period: €45,000 for a class a or class b licence and €3,000 for an authorised agent licence. An application for the renewal of a class a or class b licence or authorised agent licence must be submitted at least three months prior to the expiry of the respective licence.39 Any such licence is issued and renewed, subject to the terms appearing on the licence, which terms may be altered from time to time at the National Betting Authority's discretion, on the basis of the information appearing on the application.40 Thus, the National Betting Authority must be immediately informed in respect of any material change of circumstances; failure to comply with this requirement, in the event of a material change of circumstances upon which the issue of a licence was based, may lead to the suspension or revocation of the respective licence.41

On the other hand, subject to the restrictions imposed by law on the number of casino-resort licences,42 the licensing process with regards to the operation licence of a casino resort commences by the Council of Ministers appointing a coordinating committee, tasked with the selection of the appropriate person for the development and operation of such a casino resort43 following a proclamation defining the applicable criteria for the selection process and inviting interested persons to declare their interest.44 At the subsequent stage, the successful candidate is summoned, by the coordinating committee, to submit an application for the granting of a casino-resort administrator licence.45 Such application is accepted upon payment of the application fee in the amount of €10,000 as well as of an indicative investigation fee (to be determined by the coordinating committee)46 for due diligence purposes. Upon issue of the licence, which will be valid for a 30-year period,47 an annual fee in the amount of €2.5 million must be paid to the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority for each of the first four years, which an annual fee in the amount of €5 million must be paid for each of the subsequent four years; for each further year, the annual fee shall be subject to adjustment but any increase cannot exceed 20 per cent of the annual fee paid for the immediately preceding year.48 The terms and prerequisites for the renewal of such a licence shall be decided by the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority at its sole discretion in each particular case.49

ii Sanctions for non-compliance

In relation to any offences or breaches of gambling laws, there are a series of specific provisions – included in the various gambling legislative instruments – imposing upon offenders, depending on the type of such breach, administrative or criminal sanctions.

As regards licensed operators, the National Betting Authority is granted the power, in case the licensee fails to comply with or breaches any of the terms and conditions of the respective licence, to suspend its licence for a period not exceeding six months and summon the licensee to comply or remedy the breach, as the case may be. In the event that such non-compliance or breach extends beyond the respective suspension period, the National Betting Authority may revoke a licence, which is automatically cancelled.50 On the other hand, the casino-resort's licence is granted subject to the caveat of compliance with the terms and conditions attached to the licence whereas in the case of serious non-compliance with the terms of the granted licence, the administrator of the casino resort may be subjected to disciplinary proceedings that may result in the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority revoking or suspending such a licence, issuing a warning letter or order for cessation or abstinence from his or her position, varying the terms of the licence or imposing a monetary fine in accordance to the (general) Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (RDA 97/2016).51

iv WRONGDOING

According to the provisions of the Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (as recently amended by virtue of the amending Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (no.2), Law 158(I)/2018, introduced on 19 December 2018) (Law 188(I)/2007), the persons providing betting services or services related to games of chance are regarded as persons or entities subject to supervision, for compliance purposes, by the National Betting Authority.52 Conversely, for the purposes of the aforesaid Law, the competent supervisory authority of the sole casino operator is the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority.53 Thus, the supervised entities are obliged to apply adequate and appropriate policies, checks and procedures for the purpose of adequately managing the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing in relation to, among others, customer identification and customer due diligence, record-keeping, internal reporting and reporting to the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS), a detailed examination of each transaction internal control, risk assessment and risk management, educating and training of employees, and compliance management.

v TAXATION

Apart from the applicable income tax obligations, most gambling activities are also subject to additional tax obligations determined pursuant to the respective legislation. In particular, according to Section 3(1) of the Law on the Taxation of Profits from OPAP Games and the Government Lottery (Law 191(I)/2012), a tax of 20 per cent applies to that part of the profits exceeding €5,000; such tax is paid (by OPAP in the case of a game of OPAP or by the Director of the Cypriot Government Lottery in case of the government lottery, as the case may be) to the Treasury of the Republic and is, thus, deducted from the profits.54 In addition, there are gambling taxes applicable to gambling operators. As far as betting activities are concerned, every licensed person must, at the end of each particular month (for the purposes of Betting Law (106(I)/2012) referred to as 'accounting period'), pay to Cypriot betting tax of 10 per cent on its net proceeds,55 plus 3 per cent on its net proceeds, by way of contribution, to the National Betting Authority.56 Regarding casino activities, the licensed casino resort administrator is under an obligation to pay to the National Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority casino tax of 15 per cent on its gross gaming revenue57 for each month.58 Specialised tax obligations may also apply, by virtue of any specialised legislative instrument regulating a particular type of gambling activity in Cyprus, depending on the nature and purpose of the activity in question.

vi ADVERTISING AND MARKETING

Advertising of gambling opportunities is duly permitted in Cyprus, to the extent – however – that the nature and extent of such advertising is limited to the true and accurate representation of the services provided by licensed persons. In an attempt to fight unfair advertising, both the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019) and Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (RDA 97/2016), set out a series of restrictions. More specifically, advertising purporting, among others, to imply to the public that the advertised bet promotes or is, in any way, related to social acceptance, personal or financial success or may contribute to solve any problems; advertisings made or supported by famous personalities in such a way as to imply to the public that the advertised bet is, in any way, related to the success of such person; advertising influencing, in any way, minors to participate in betting activities or advertising promoting bets using services provided by non-licensed persons; or, more generally, advertising exceeding boundaries of honesty and dignity is expressly prohibited.59 Admittedly, those restrictions may serve as general guidelines, the breach of which constitutes, in respect of persons regulated pursuant to the provisions of the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), an offence and in the event of conviction, the advertiser shall be subject to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding €30,000, or both, while if the advertisement in question promotes any prohibited services, the advertiser, if found guilty, shall be subject to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding €30,000, or both.60 On the other hand, persons regulated pursuant to the provisions of the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015) and the Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (RDA 97/2016), if guilty of such an offence shall be subject to disciplinary proceedings, while any other person, if found guilty, shall be subject to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding €100,000, or both.61

vii OUTLOOK

In respect of the applicable legislative and regulatory framework governing gambling activities in Cyprus, the enactment of the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019) marks the most notable development in the current year. While the new law does not significantly alter the regulatory landscape since it retains the foundations laid by its predecessor, it introduces provisions to take into account of recent developments in the betting industry such as the possibility of 'cashing out' prior to the bet being settled. As a general remark, in regard to the fact that the bulk of the legislative instruments governing gambling activities in the Republic of Cyprus were only recently enacted (Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos, Law 124(I)/2015) or replaced (Betting Law 37(I)/2019 repealing Betting Law 106(I)/2012) it could be argued that the gambling industry in Cyprus is still in its infancy. Notwithstanding the existence of certain restrictions in applicable laws effectively giving rise to monopolies in relation to certain gambling activities, (at least for the time being), there is also scope to argue that in the near future potential investors may benefit from the exploitation of the opportunities presented by Cyprus gambling laws, especially following the liberalisation of the casino market.


Footnotes

1 Antria Aristodimou and Marios Christodoulou are lawyers at A Karitzis & Associates LLC.

2 Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 2, interpretation of 'sports event'.

3 The wording of the definition of the term 'betting', included in the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), expressly refers to events that actually take place with the participation of natural persons, thereby excluding fantasy sports betting.

4 Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 2, interpretation of 'bet'.

5 Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 2, interpretation of 'spread bet'; Section 86(1).

6 Introduced by virtue of the Law on Collective Betting (Regulation and Taxation) (Law 75(I)/1997).

7 Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 2, interpretation of 'game of chance'; in this respect, it should be stressed that the notion of 'game of chance' was introduced upon enactment of the Betting Law (106(I)/2012), repealed by virtue of Betting Law 37(I)/2019. Instead, until that time, the concept of 'game of chance' was only recognized in the Law on Slot Machines, Skill Machines and Entertainment Machines (32(I)/1996), which expressly prohibited, among others, the use, operation, control, possession, import and construction of 'lucky gaming machines', the purpose of which was to generate profit or receive something in exchange. The approach of the Betting Law (106(I)/2012) was consistent in that the 'slot machines', defined in a similar albeit more detailed manner compared to the corresponding definition of lucky gaming machines', as well as the provision of services for the carrying out slot machine services is also expressly prohibited. It is also worth to note that the said definition of the 'game of chance', provided for in the Law 37(I)/2019, has been supplemented through the inclusion of games of chance in the form of a numbered lottery game relating to the exact foresight of a specific number of numbers out of a pool of numbers resulting through a draw.

8 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 2, interpretation of 'game'; Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 2, interpretation of 'game of chance'.

9 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 2, interpretation of 'casino game'.

10 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 2, interpretation of 'online table game'.

11 Lotteries Law (Chapter74), Section 10.

12 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 2, interpretation of 'lottery'.

13 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 2, interpretation of 'ticket of lottery'.

14 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 2, interpretation of 'government lottery'; Section 4.

15 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 6.

16 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 7.

17 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 15.

18 https://www.opap.org.cy/en/page/games?mid=56.

19 https://www.opap.org.cy/en/page/games?mid=56.

20 Law on the ratification of the Treaty between the Republic of Greece and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus (gaming carried out by OPAP SA) (Law 13(III)/2001), Section 7(a).

21 Law on the ratification of the Treaty between the Republic of Greece and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus (gaming carried out by OPAP SA) (Law 34(III)/2003), Section 5(b).

22 Without going into too much detail, following the events of 1974, the island of Cyprus is effectively separated into two territories, the Republic of Cyprus occupying the southern part of the island and the only recognised state on the island comprising a Member State of the EU and the United Nations, and the self-proclaimed 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' controlled by the Turkish armed forces, that has not been recognised by any state in the world other than Turkey.

23 It is worth noting that the Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019) only entered into force on 21 March 2019 repealing the previous regulatory framework namely Betting Law (106(I)/2012); in this respect, the new regulatory framework provides for a transitional period, during which any regulation and directive issued pursuant to the Betting Law (106(I)/2012) shall continue to be in force unless repealed, amended or replaced.

24 Betting Law (۳۷(I)/۲۰۱۹), Section ۳۹.

25 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 50.

26 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 44.

27 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 3(d).

28 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 6(2)(c).

29 Lotteries Law (Chapter 74), Section 7.

30 https://www.opap.org.cy/en/page/agents?mid=56.

31 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 2, 'online betting' and 'telecommunications'.

32 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Sections 58, 60 and 61.

33 Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (R.D.A. 97/2016), Section 28.

34 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 2 'casino employees'.

35 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 2 'casino managers'.

36 Law on the provision of Investment Services and Activities and the operation of Regulated Markets (Law 144(I)/2007), Section 2 and Part III 'Financial Instruments'.

37 Law on the provision of Investment Services and Activities and the operation of Regulated Markets (Law 144(I)/2007), Part III, point (9).

38 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 18.

39 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 18(2).

40 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 21.

41 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 24.

42 Since the first licence for a casino resort was granted in 2018, no further applications shall be accepted at least for the next 14 years.

43 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 19.

44 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 20.

45 Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (R.D.A. 97/2016), Section 8.

46 The hourly rate of the investigation is €500,00 while total amount is confirmed upon completion of the investigation. Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (R.D.A. 97/2016), Section 8(5).

47 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 24.

48 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 26.

49 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Section 25.

50 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Sections 25–27.

51 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Part XIV.

52 Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Law 188(I)/2007), Section 59(f).

53 Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Law 188(I)/2007), Section 59(g).

54 Law on the taxation of profits from OPAP games and the Government Lottery (Law 191(I)/2012), Section 4(4).

55 According to Section 74(5) of Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), the amount of net proceeds from a bet from a class a or b licensed bookmaker , for a particular accounting period, is equal to the total amounts paid to the class a or b licensed bookmaker or authorised agent in a particular accounting period, in relation to bets carried out by him minus the total amounts paid by the class a or b licensed bookmaker or authorised agent in that particular period, as winnings to persons who bet, irrespective as to when the bets were placed or played.

56 Betting Law (37(I)/2019), Section 74.

57 According to Section 80(4) of the Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), 'gross gaming revenue' means all cash and receipts from cash paid into gaming machines and from the purchase of chips, chip vouchers and tokens to play casino games and gaming machines, but does not include free gaming (defined as the value of chips chip vouchers and tokens granted by the licensed casino resort administrator free of charge), less amounts paid out for winnings (all amounts paid to the casino customer or any funds held by the casino on behalf of the customers that can be withdrawn on demand).

58 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (124(I)/2015), Section 81.

59 Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 89(1); Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (RDA 97/2016), Section 8.

60 Betting Law (Law 37(I)/2019), Section 89.

61 Law on the Establishment, Operation, Activity, Supervision and Control of Casinos (Law 124(I)/2015), Sections 65, 93; Regulations on the Operation and Control of Casino (RDA 97/2016), Section 32.