The bright lights might attract tourists, but what other impact could gambling have?
A final result is in sight in the bidding to build a casino and mega-hotel in The Republic of Cyprus. Opinion on the island divides on whether it will bring in the international big spenders, or be a sleazy attack on Cyprus’s traditional family values.
The story of the casino has been a long one, with the former left-wing government adamantly against the presence of licensed gambling on the island. The fears of the ‘against’ camp revolved around a casino feeding into or even creating gambling addictions, followed by a swift deterioration of family life and the fabric of society as a whole.
The ‘for’ camp said it was about time Cyprus had a casino to rival those in the north of the island
The ‘for’ camp said it was about time Cyprus had a casino to rival those in the occupied north of the island. Many Cypriots simply cross over the Green Line to try their luck at casinos there and the logic of those in support of a similar facility in the south is that revenue would stay in the country.
It seems a fair point, and eventually the ‘for’ camp won. What followed was a battle amongst the different regions to secure the licence, and the economic benefits and jobs that they hope will follow. It looks like the casino will be located centrally, with stakeholders eyeing property to the west of the newly revamped Limassol. That also places it within an hour’s drive from most tourist hotspots on the island.
Property owners close to the planned location are asking what impact the casino could have on house prices. In theory, it could make them rise. The casino has all along been touted as geared towards high spenders with an emphasis on ‘luxury’. There are stringent criteria that the bidder must adhere to in the final proposal and these include at least 500 luxury hotel rooms, along with at least 1,000 gaming machines and 100 gaming tables. It is going to be a vast development.
But will a high-end ‘halo’ develop around? One problem is that the word ‘luxury’ has become meaningless in Cyprus and perhaps elsewhere as well. What property for sale is not described in such superlatives? What exactly will the luxury hotel rooms be like? If they are of a superior character then perhaps the casino will trigger secondary high-end businesses to crop up in its vicinity.
On the other hand, it might mean nothing. Cyprus has made several attempts to attract what it describes as high-end tourists (what is wrong with the rest of the tourists, I feel like asking). There is no evidence of great success in this department. Yes, there has been a high rise in the number of wealthy Russian tourists and investors on the island but British holiday-makers still outnumber them by more than half. Chinese investors are also coming to the island and perhaps it is these that the authorities are trying to attract. So far the Cypriot-European passport scheme has been successful in attracting the Russian and Chinese markets (as has the weather, one assumes).
Will the presence of a casino impact on property prices?
Is a casino really going to draw the region’s wealthy or will it just become, as it has been feared, a place where bad habits develop? The winning bidder will also be granted licences to build three slot machine parlours around the country. As for its impact on property prices, time will tell if it will be positive or negative.