Melco Temporary Casino Off To a Slow Start in Cyprus

Melco Temporary Casino Off To a Slow Start in Cyprus

Melco International Development, also known as the Melco Group, has opened its first casino in Europe, or more specifically on the island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Hong Kong-based firm has been around for more than 100 years and primarily operates in Hong Kong, Macau, and the Philippines. The development underway in the Republic of Cyprus therefore marks the first phase in a massive expansion globally for the firm, and will provide it with a lucrative opportunity to tap in to new markets and audiences across the European continent.

While the recently launched casino on the island is temporary, it is a prelude to a massive €550 million integrated casino resort scheduled to open in 2021. Once complete, the ‘City of Dreams Mediterranean’, as it will be called, will be primed towards the tourism market, and will boast a five-star hotel, restaurants, coffee shops, retail shopping, spa and sports center, in addition to a gaming facility with an expected 1,200 slot machines and 136 table games. If all goes well, the resort is expected to attract an extra 300,000 tourists a year to Cyprus, and create more than 11,000 jobs for locals.

In the meantime, the temporary casino costing €13 million has gotten off to an inauspicious start, and as Melco’s property president Craig Ballantyne, recently told the Cyprus Mail.

“It has been a real rollercoaster ride.. It’s been a bit of fun but it’s below expectations I have to say that.”

Domestic Gambling Laws

In comparison to other countries in Europe, Cyprus has been behind the times when it comes to legalizing gambling. However, the latest news shows a change in attitude, adapting to modern times and opening the country’s doors to the gambling market. In the meantime, the temporary casino project will continue to operate for 3 years until development is complete on the super casino resort, and the company has already hired more than 500 staff members to help operate the venue, three-quarters of which are Cypriot.

Betting activates are currently regulated under the Cyprus Betting Law 2012. While the temporary casino is a first for Cyprus, and allows residents to participate in sports betting, both online and offline, betting exchanges and online casinos, on the other hand, are not allowed in Cyprus and are illegal under the legislation. It is estimated that there are presently more than two thousand website domains that are blocked for attempting to offer casino gaming services in Cyprus.

Temporary Casino

The temporary casino is based on a large resort site of 4,500+ square meters in Limassol, 1200+ of which is for the gaming area. Property president of City of Dreams Mediterranean commented:

“Even though C2 is a pop-up casino, this property will give new meaning to the term. We’ve invested close to €13 million in this facility to ensure that every one of our guests experiences the renowned standards and quality of service which Melco, one of the world’s largest integrated resort operators, is famous for”.

Within the casino, there are more than 200 slot machines and more than 30 tables for games such as blackjack and roulette, along with gaming for VIP guests and food areas. The casino is open 24 hours a day and is expecting to bring in around twenty five thousand guests every month.

However, interest in the casino seems to be off to a slow start with figures so far being much less than expected.

Boosting The Cyprus Economy

When the license for the casino resort was obtained back in 2016, it was estimated that it would provide a massive boost to the Republic of Cyprus, an EU-member in which tourism represents a sizeable part of the economy. Cyprus is popular with tourists from all over the world, with a large percentage being from the Greece, Ukraine, Russia, the UK, and Italy. Furthermore, Melco International Development is hoping to attract larger numbers of tourists and visitors from other nations that visit Cyprus, including Middle Eastern countries such as nearby Lebanon. Once the permanent casino resort is complete, the City Of Dreams Mediterranean will be the largest gambling venue in the whole of Europe.

The summer months are hugely popular in Cyprus amongst holidaymakers, and the casino owners are currently looking to capitalize on this through its temporary venue. However, the latest news that the casino is not doing as well as predicted will undoubtedly result in some anxiousness and nerves amongst investors. At present, it is not known why the temporary casino is off to a slow start, although Ballantyne points towards the dozens of casinos currently operating on the northern Turkish occupied third of the island.

Teething Problems

The early days of opening the temporary casino has seen some teething problems. One of the reasons for this is that the country has an issue with illegal casinos operating in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), a self-proclaimed statelet in the island’s north that has been denounced by the United Nations and is considered illegal by all other countries around the world, with the exception of Turkey which maintains more than 40,000 of its troops in the territory.

The self-proclaimed KKTC allows around thirty other smaller casinos to operate in its areas, and while none of them match Melco’s size or standard, they are still competition none the less. Craig Ballantyne, Property President said in the Cyprus Mail that competition from other establishments had impacted visitation. He further commented:

“We’re not the only game in town and we never have been, never will be… With a customer, it’s all about choice – you cannot insist they go anywhere with their disposable income. You cannot twist their arm. It’s all about the offer… [The other casino establishments] give everything free. They give alcohol free, they give cigarettes and tobacco free, just about everything and anything”.

Learning the Ropes

It was hinted that Melco is still learning the local market in which others have been operating for years. Strict regulations are also said to be impacting on the temporary casino resort – particularly those focused on advertising and marketing both in shops and on TV.

In the Republic of Cyprus, it is illegal to advertise gambling products in such a manner as to encourage gambling. Melco has subsequently pointed out that it considers the law to be “discriminatory” as Greece’s gambling monopoly, OPAP, is allowed to promote its lottery products everywhere, and advertise its life-changing multi-million euro jackpots.

That said, Melco also emphasized that it was steadily getting to grips with the nuances of Cypriot law, and that its was a long term investment. Consequently, Ballantyne said that the teething troubles it might encounter ahead of its main integrated casino resort opening would help it to better adapt to the local landscape, and produce an even more refined product ahead of its opening date.