Land problems for casino

Finding the right land is proving to be an obstacle for bidders in the Republic of Cyprus' first casino licence, despite the three-month extension given to companies to submit their final proposals, the Cyprus Weekly has learned.

Naga of Cambodia and Bloomberry of the Philippines, two of the three companies that made it to the second round, are still in search of the right land according to sources.

"I think it's fair to say that the land aspect is a challenge," a person close to one of the bidders told the Cyprus Weekly.

The land issue has been a problem ever since members of parliament (MPs) decided to exclude state land from the sites where the casino resort was to be built.

"Companies do find private land but there are cases where there is a small part of additional state land needed for the casino project," the source said.

Parliament excluded state land from the casino licensing with the aim of safeguarding state interests and helping private landowners at a time of financial difficulties.

"Even now that property prices have dropped, casino companies have been offered land at ridiculously high prices," an experienced real estate agent involved in the procedure told the Cyprus Weekly.

"Excluding state land from the casino procedure proved to be a mistake," he added.

For the time being, only Melco International Development-Hard Rock International-Cyprus Phasouri (Zakaki) has been able to secure land need for the casino resort.

Melco is a major casino player in Macao. It owns and operates properties under the 'City of Dreams', 'Studio City', 'Altira', and 'Tigre de Cristal' brands, while generating $4.8 billion in revenues.

Hard Rock International, Melco's partner in the bid for the Cyprus casino, has venues in 68 countries, including 162 cafes, 23 hotels and 11 casinos, and is one of the most recognised companies globally.

"There is a real chance Cyprus casino licensing will end up with just one offer and this could prove problematic for Cyprus,"a person familiar with issue told the Cyprus Weekly.

Source: In Cyprus