Cyprus has voted to ban all forms of online gambling, prompting widespread criticism among gamblers and operators such as Betfair. The controversial new bill bars all forms of online casinos and exchange betting, although online sports betting is allowed. An original bill had seen exchange betting allowed along with sports betting, however a new bill was resubmitted at the last minute, leaving exchange betting out, and passed in the House of Representatives on Friday.
There have been considerable complaints about the bill, especially since it exempts the Greek gaming company, OPAP, claiming that the group, which runs the National Lottery, operates under a bilateral agreement between Greece and Cyprus. Due to the strong sentiments against OPAP, there have been reports of at least nine cases of arson against OPAP outlets across the country.
Due to the changes in Cyprus’ laws, shares for Betfair dropped 4.5% today. Betfair operates in the island-state’s gambling market, which contributed around 4% of revenues last year (£9 million profit).
In a statement issued by Betfair after Cyprus changed its laws, it was said that the company believes the new legislation contains serious flaws and, in certain areas, is inconsistent with European Union law. Betfair also said that it would be taking all necessary steps to reduce the impact on profitability through both legal action and cost management. Betfair threatened legal action against Cyprus.
Cyprus passed the controversial new law after long delays, as members of parliament were unable to reach an agreement regarding the provisions of the bill. It was passed following concerns that Cyprus is losing billions in tax revenue to online casinos and exchange betting sites.