The topic of online gambling in Cyprus is complex thanks to laws that are currently in flux, haphazard enforcement of the laws that are on the books and due to the fact that there are two competing governments on one island. We’ll cover all the legal details later, but first let’s begin with a look at the best casino sites in Cyprus right now.
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Cyprus itself no longer regulates online gambling to any degree, but some casino sites hosted and regulated in other nations do accept Cypriot players. The end result is you can play at sites that have deemed safe by other regulatory bodies even if the Cypriot government offers no guarantees of its own.
However, the list of online casinos that accept players from Cyprus has grown shorter in recent times due to new legislation introduced in late 2016 legalizing online sports betting. The Greek half of Cyprus began licensing sports betting sites in November of 2016 and then expanded its internet-blocking blacklist to cover virtually every other known gambling site that does not have a license.
Many of the bigger online casinos have opted to play nicely and stop accepting customers from Cyprus. Others have already received provisional sports betting licenses and no longer offer casino games to Cypriot customers as a part of their licensing agreements. For example, people can still visit sites to bet on sports in Cyprus, but have no access to the online casino.
As of this writing, the legal situation regarding online casinos in Cyprus remains fluid. More changes to the law are expected, but we still do not know what the final legal environment will look like once the government finalizes its gaming laws.
Legal Online Gambling in Cyprus
Online gambling is outlawed across all of Cyprus, although enforcement of the law has so far proven toothless. Both the Greek and the Turkish sides of the island supposedly prohibit online casinos, but lawmakers in both areas have their hands full dealing with other matters. As a result, most people living in Cyprus have access to a wide range of gambling websites.
Keep in mind that Cyprus is effectively divided into two different nations that reject claims made by the other. The Republic of Cyprus lays claim to the entire island but in actuality only controls the southern half of the island. However, Turkey backs a government that has control over the northern half that calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The political situation is a bit confusing, but the laws for each half of the island are fairly straightforward. We will describe the legal situation of online gambling in each area, beginning with the southern half of the island.
The Republic of Cyprus in the south lays claim to the entire island even though the government really only controls about 60% of the island. The international community (except Turkey) recognizes the Republic of Cyprus, which is also a member of the EU. The EU membership is important to note because EU treaties require the free flow of goods and services between member states.
Laws passed in 2012 prohibit all online gambling except for sports betting as offered by OPAP, which is the state-backed monopoly lottery provider. Online casino sites have railed against the law for years on the basis that it prevents competition as required by those afore-mentioned EU treaties. Cyprus refused to comply for years, and operators headquartered in other countries have subsequently ignored local laws by continuing to accept Cypriot customers.
That whole debate may soon be put to rest. As of 2016, the Cypriot government is moving forward with plans to open the online sports betting market to international competition. The latest news has it that Cyprus will begin accepting license applications from online sports betting sites in October.
This new law has also paved the way for one brick-and-mortar casino license to be issued after a bidding process. The winner of the bid will be granted a 30-year license with a 15-year guarantee of “exclusive” operation. This casino will operate 24 hours a day, pay 15% in taxes and be limited to people aged 21 or older.
The northern, Turkish controlled half of the island is a self-declared nation that is only recognized by Turkey. The northern half has had a thriving brick-and-mortar since 1977. In fact, a large portion of the country’s financial reserves come as a result of taxes paid by casinos. Tourists from around the world make the flight from Turkey to Cyprus regularly and serve as a major boon to the economy.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus does not regulate online gambling as far as we can tell. We do know Turkey has harsh laws that forbid players from playing at unlicensed online casinos, but it remains unclear if Northern Cyprus implements similar laws. In either case, all the same betting sites that are listed at the top of this page also accept customers from the northern half of the island.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.