As of this moment, the Republic of Cyprus is actively implementing blocks of unauthorized gambling sites in advance of the launch of its regulated sports betting market, with the biggest block remaining being an undesirable contract from Greece.
The report of the blocks comes from the small island nation’s Parliament, whose finance committee listened to reports from representatives of the country’s National Betting Authority (EAS) detailing the domain-blocking of an estimated 2,500 unauthorized online gambling sites which were serving Cypriot punters.
2012 Legislative Context
According to the Cyprus Mail, the initial target operator category for the blocks is online casinos under the auspices of 2012 legislative bans against online casino, poker and exchange betting.
New Market Model
The measure comes in light of the promising development of a fully regulated Cypriot market. The imminence became official in October when in a tax revenue boosting measure the EAS began accepting applications for new online sports betting licenses while issuing initial blacklist warnings against unauthorized operation.
No More OPAP
Regulation in Cyprus also necessitates a redefinition of the government’s arrangement with lottery provider OPAP. The Greek betting operator gained a monopoly over other online betting products under the legislation of 2012 in an agreement which the government of Cyprus has been unhappy with almost ever since, seeking ways to withdraw from the interstate agreement with Greece since as far back as May 2014.
Bad Old Deal
Under the old deal, OPAP had been paying the Cyprus government in the range of €10m annually. Concerns have arisen over disproportionate increases in payment consistent with subsequent OPAP revenue gains, such as the doubling of OPAP revenues in 2013 after the launch of its new Kino game that translated to a marginal jump in Cyprus Republic shares to €12.3m. Ultimately, an auditor-general’s report concluded that the current OPAP deal was costing Cyprus some €1m per month.
New Cyprus Legislation
Cyprus’ new legislation calls for exclusive rights to be granted to a single provider operating specific lottery games in Cyprus for a specific period of time and under specific conditions, in line with government demands for OPAP to double its yearly fixed contribution and a 20% tax on gross lottery profits.
The clunky OPAP agreement and the vestiges of Greek regulation ineptitude are coming off as an albatross as the Cyprus government seeks to move forward autonomously with its own optimized regulation model.