Cyprus explores banning gambling for low-income population as sector hiked by 22% in 2022

A proposal to ban gambling for those with a low income is in discussion in Cyprus after betting activity in 2022 went up by 22% compared to the previous year, at €959 million ($1 billion). The figures were shared by Ioanna Fiakkou, head of the National Betting Authority, to MPs at a parliament meeting on Monday.

The $1 billion wagered at licensed betting shops across the island corresponded to 3.5% of GDP, noted Fiakkou, as per the Cyprus Mail. In comparison, betting in 2016 amounted to only 0.9% of GDP. The state collected taxes worth €11.75 million ($12.4 million) from betting last year, with the money distributed to the Cyprus Sports Organization and various sports federations.

But as the betting industry expands, so will authorities’ efforts to limit problem gambling. Once the betting authority’s budget is approved, a contract is expected to be signed for the establishment of a gambling addiction treatment programme in the Famagusta district.

Additionally, a proposal has been submitted to the minister of health for the creation of a screening programme within the national health system. The scheme would provide preventive treatment to people who display early signs of gambling addiction.

But Fiakkou also mentioned, as reported by the cited source, that a self-exclusion platform will be rolled out soon. Developed in partnership with the ministries of health and labor, the program will list all welfare recipients, particularly beneficiaries of the Guaranteed Minimum Income, so that they are barred from engaging in games of chance. 

These efforts come in response to cases where GMI recipients, as well as people on disability allowance, reportedly spent all their funds on betting. They also come as Cyprus relaxed pandemic-related restrictions in 2022, and as the island prepares for the much-awaited opening of City of Dreams: a $630 million mega-resort by Hong Kong casino company Melco, to debut this summer.