Asian firms rule Cyprus casino shortlist

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Officials in the Greek-controlled southern half of Cyprus have reportedly narrowed down their casino applicant shortlist to three operators, all of which have Asian ties.

This weekend, Cypriot media outlet Politis reported that the government bodies overseeing the competition to build the lone casino in southern Cyprus had identified the three most qualified candidates from the original list of eight interested applicants.

Official word won’t be forthcoming until sometime later this week but sources claim that the three highest scoring casino candidates are (ranked highest to lowest) a tandem bid by Florida-based Hard Rock International and Melco; Cambodia’s NagaCorp; and the Philippines’ Bloomberry Resorts Corp.

Politis cited Melco as being based in Macau, which suggests that it was referring to Melco Crown Entertainment, the joint venture of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts and Hong Kong construction firm Melco International Development. But Melco Crown announced in January that it wasn’t planning any Cyprus expansion, suggesting Politis may have confused Melco Crown for Melco International.

The Lawrence Ho-controlled Melco International has launched its own casino projects apart from Melco Crown, having opened the first casino in Russia’s Primorye gaming zone near Vladivostok last year. Melco is also pursuing a casino project in Spain but recently abandoned gaming plans in the Republic of Georgia.

NagaCorp is also building a Primorye casino to add to its flagship NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh. Bloomberry operates Solaire Resort Casino, which was the first property to open in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming zone, and has since expanded internationally by buying an existing casino on South Korea’s Jeju Island.

The three Cyprus finalists will now proceed to the final stage of the competition, which will require them submit more detailed proposals for government vetting. Politis said the three candidates had all identified the Nicosia area as their preferred locale for building their casino project.

Cyprus approved casino legislation last summer and the government hopes to award the lone casino license this year. Whoever gets the nod, the casino – which will feature a minimum of 100 gaming tables and 1000 slots – is expected to open in 2018. The licensee will have the option of opening smaller satellite gaming venues while the project is being built.

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