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Europe’s Largest Casino Opens in Cyprus

The largest casino resort in Europe opened on the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Tuesday, with the authorities hoping it will attract an extra high-spending 300,000 tourists annually.

The City of Dreams Mediterranean is the brainchild of Hong Kong-based gambling firm Melco, whose CEO Lawrence Ho said he first got the idea to build the resort when he visited Cyprus 16 years ago for a wedding.

The complex, in the southern coastal city of Limassol, took three years to build at a cost of more than 637 million euros ($700 million), and currently employs 2,000 staff.

It is viewed as a “game-changer” for the key tourism sector that will address seasonality and attract high-rollers from nearby Israel, the Gulf and further afield.

“It allows Cyprus to unlock new markets in Africa and the Middle East,” Ho said at Tuesday’s official launch.

“Having a resort of this quality… opens multiple new possibilities,” the Melco Resorts and Entertainment chief added.

“First impressions are powerful and lasting. We came for a wedding and loved it.”

The City of Dreams Mediterranean property manager Grant Johnson said the project includes a solar power system generating 1.2 MW of renewable energy on the sun-baked island.

“This resort is the largest of its kind in Europe,” he said.

It resembles an Inca temple, and looks out to sea near Limassol, a city that is sometimes dubbed “Moscow on the Med” because of its popularity with Russians.

The 14-floor hotel has 7,500 square metres (8,970 square yards) of gaming space that includes 100 tables and 1,000 slot machines.

The first property Melco has opened outside Asia, the project was delayed first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent European Union sanctions and travel bans on Russia.

Melco had been banking on Russians — who normally account for a fifth of Cyprus’s tourists — being some of their best customers.

Pre-coronavirus 2019 was a record year for Cyprus tourism, with 3.97 million visitors spending 2.68 billion euros.

A key driver of the economy, tourism contributes around 15 percent of Cyprus’s GDP.

Casinos were not legalised in Cyprus until 2015. The powerful Greek Orthodox church had opposed them, and leftist former president Demetris Christofias feared they would bring “corruption”.

Money-laundering has also been a concern, with one Greek Cypriot anti-money laundering specialist telling AFP last year: “Casinos are a sensitive subject” on the island.

The Cyprus Finance Ministry has told AFP that the fight against money laundering “is a challenging and continuous process.

“The authorities are working continuously… and minimising risks.”

Source : Neos Kosmos