In 2012, Cyprus introduced a comprehensive legislative framework to regulate betting activities. The Betting Law 2012 updated pre-established rules and guidelines and introduced new ones.
The relevant Acts and legislative documents that regulate gambling activity in Cyprus are:
- The Betting Law 2012 – Law 106(I)/2012.
- Gambling Law 108(I)/17/7/2012.
- Gambling Law 4374/28/12/2012.
- The Lotteries Law 1974, as amended.
- Directive 98/34/EC laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations (Technical Standards and Regulations Directive) as amended by Directive 2006/96/EC.
- The bilateral agreement between Cyprus and Greece regarding the Greek Organization of Football Prognostics (OPAP SA).
- The Law to Regulate the Establishment, Operation, Function, Control and Supervision of Casinos and Related Matters 2015 (Casino Law 2015).
Gambling products specifically identified by legislation
- Poker – can be played legally in Cyprus, but only in a strictly limited number of recently licensed casinos. It is illegal to offer poker tables at other venues. Online poker gambling is also prohibited; there are no Cypriot websites offering poker services and the great majority of foreign sites, which used to offer such services before the enactment of the Betting Law 2012, are now blocked.
- Betting – Peer-to-peer or betting exchanges are prohibited (Article 80, Betting Law 2012). Providers of betting services must be licensed and authorised to offer such services by the National Betting Authority (NBA).
- Sports betting – The Betting Law 2012 regulates online sports betting and allows only fixed-bet sports betting. Online sports betting is legal, but requires a licence from the NBA for a company to operate legally. Operators in land-based premises must also acquire the appropriate licence from the NBA.
- Casino games – According to the Casino Law of 2015, casino games are now legal for land-based services at licensed casinos. Online casino games, however, have been strictly forbidden since the enactment of the Betting Law 2012.
- Slot and other machine gaming are allowed to operate only within a casino licensed by the NBA.
- Terminal-based gaming
- Bingo is played legally in licensed land-based premises in Cyprus but is prohibited online. Lotteries are legal in Cyprus and the Ministry of Finance itself runs a national lottery. The dominant player in the lottery market, OPAP SA, offers a number of numeric lottery games. Online lotteries are not allowed since any form of online gambling except sports betting is illegal.
The following betting services are strictly prohibited in Cyprus either in land-based premises or via online venues:
- Betting on horse races
- Limited betting games machines
- Spread betting
- Dog racing
- Bitcoin gambling is not allowed since it uses virtual currency for online gambling, which is illegal
What are the regulatory or governmental bodies that are responsible for supervising gambling?
The National Betting Authority (NBA) is the supervisory authority over all gambling activities in Cyprus. The NBA is responsible for examining applications, and licensing, auditing and supervising prospective betting shops and online betting operators. The Ministry of Finance is responsible for the legislation and its amendments, regulations and directives.
The NBA requires the applicant to demonstrate that it:
- Has sufficient resources to pay the players’ winnings.
- Has adequate accounting systems.
- Can comply with regulations for the protection of players promulgated by the NBA.
- Duration of licence and cost
Licences are issued for one or two years, and may be renewed on application, subject to the approval of the NBA (Article 24, Betting Law). The NBA can suspend or revoke a licence in the event of failure to comply with the required standards.
Companies with licences in other EU member states to perform betting services within the meaning of the Betting Law (but not other gambling services) can provide those services in Cyprus before being issued a licence from the National Betting Association (NBA) as long as they apply for a licence within one month of notification of the date on which the NBA will accept applications for a licence (Article 91(3), Betting Law).
There are two forms of licence available:
Class A. This regulates land betting services provided within physical premises, excluding Class B services and horseracing.
Class B. This regulates online betting services excluding slot machines, online casinos, and so on, to the limited extent that they are permitted
For a Class A or Class B licence, the licensee must pay a fee of EUR 30,000 for one year and EUR 45,000 for two years. An authorised representative of a licensee must pay EUR 2,000 for one year and EUR 3,000 for two years. The fee is payable with the initial application or application for renewal. If rejected, 75% of the fee is returned.
A company seeking a licence must have a physical presence in Cyprus or a partnership with a local company. An application for a Class A and Class B bookmaker’s licence can only be submitted by a company with shares (issued and paid up share capital is at least EUR500,000), established either in the Republic of Cyprus or abroad and which has a branch (overseas company) in the Republic of Cyprus, and its main activity is to carry on bets.
Services for the performance of bets by an authorised representative on behalf of a Class A licensee within licensed premises is also possible.
In addition, the Casino Law 2015 introduced the grant of a single licence for an integrated casino resort, which also includes a licence for four satellite-only slot machine casinos. The winner of the tender is awarded a 30-year licence and a 15-year monopoly on land-based gambling operations within the casino.
If the NBA or the police receive a filed complaint about an offence under the Betting Law 2012 it is possible to submit a without notice application to the court to ban any illegal gambling action, including illegal betting, and operation of any premises can be suspended. Failure to comply with such an order will result in a penalty of up to EUR 300,000 and/or five years’ imprisonment. The police have power of enforcement and the costs of enforcement are borne by the subject of the order, which could be based on a violation of certain Articles of the Betting Law 2012. The application must be accompanied by a guarantee issued by a bank in Cyprus or other EU member state for EUR 550,000 expiring six months after receipt of the licence. This applies to both Cypriot and foreign companies as well.
Online gambling and betting
Online gambling is prohibited in Cyprus, except for sports betting where the participant must be over the age of 18, for which a Class B licence is required. There is no expectation of the restrictions imposed on online gambling being removed in the near future.
The performance of electronic betting in Class B is regulated under Part VI of the Betting Law 2012. The licensee can electronically register as a player a person submitting an application for registration and must include various personal information regarding the player. The player must be over 18 and informed of the conditions and the procedure for carrying out bets, including the fee payable to the licensee. The licensee maintains in electronic form a secure list of all players registered, including their details and an account for each registered player in which the amounts received from the player, as well as the amounts due to the player, are credited. The account is maintained for five years after the last transaction and can be closed with the approval of the National Betting Authority.
The National Betting Authority (NBA) has a strict framework regarding ISPs, to control online betting services. The NBA can block access to any unauthorised and unlicensed provider of illegal gambling services. The NBA has issued a blacklist of approximately 270 online gambling sites that have been banned for offering illegal gambling services. ISPs who do not maintain a blacklist face penalties of up to EUR 30,000.
What are the limitations or requirements imposed on land-based gambling operators?
Cyprus prohibits minors (that is, individuals under 18) from entering licensed gambling establishments or engaging in other gambling activities, such as lotteries. People below the age of 18 cannot be involved in sports betting.
Most-land based gambling activities outside the authorised casinos are prohibited and only sports betting and lottery games are allowed in authorised venues holding a Class A licence.
There are no other restrictions, aside from the requirements to obtain a licence and the anti-money laundering requirements. All players of electronic bets are limited to carrying out transactions by means of credit or debit cards or other kinds of electronic payment (Article 54, Betting Law 2012).
The following anti-money laundering measures are in place:
- Cash transactions are not allowed for electronic bets (Article 58(1), Betting Law 2012).
- Gambling bets on Class A premises can be paid with cash or debit/credit cards.
- Gambling providers must not accept any bet from a player unless they are satisfied that there are sufficient funds in the player’s account.
- Gambling providers must maintain a valid bank account at an authorised banking institution operating in Cyprus.
Every licensed premise in Cyprus (holding a Class A or Class B licence) will pay a betting tax of up to 10% of its net revenue and 3% tax also on its net revenue, to the State Gaming Board, which was established under the Betting Law 2012 (Article 12). The Gaming Board will subsequently distribute the proceeds among the Sports Federation, the Football Federation and gambling addiction programmes (Article 71, Betting Law 2012).
Our team of lawyers can assist you in preparing all relevant documentations and applications for all the above-mentioned.