Gambling in Cyprus has “quite quickly” recovered to pre-COVID levels, according to the latest figures released by the National Betting Authority (NBA) and the country’s only licensed casino operator, Melco.
Gross gaming revenue (GGR) for land-based and online betting reached €27.8m in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing the total for 2021 to €98.98m, up from €89.3m in 2020 and €88.7m in 2019, according to the NBA.
Ioanna Fiakkou, president of the NBA, said the results in the fourth quarter of 2021 reflect the “growth prospects presented by the betting sector”, as she promised to continue to strengthen supervision of the industry and introduce new technologies to improve consumer protection measures.
The increase in betting GGR also correlated with increased gambling revenues for the government from the sector, with €9.91m raised in 2021 from a 10 percent betting tax and €2.97m raised by a 3 percent contribution tax.
Comparatively, the betting tax only raised €8.93m in 2020 and the contribution tax only raised €2.68m in the same year.
Gambling industry employment figures had also reached pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.
By the end of 2018, the betting industry employed 1,359 people; however, that number fell to as low as 1,101 in the first quarter of 2019.
That figure is now back up to 1,336 employees, as of the start of 2022.
The government of Cyprus has called its gambling industry a “pillar” of its economy in recent years, making increasing tax revenues and employment figures a cornerstone of the country’s business policy.
However, betting premises were forced to shut down from March 16 until May 23, 2020 as a result of measures taken by the Ministry of Health to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Separately, the country’s casino industry was also affected by a regional lockdown from November 12 to November 30, 2020, meaning the satellite casinos in Limassol and Paphos operated by Melco closed right before another nationwide host of curfews and restrictions were introduced from November 30 to December 31, 2020.
Melco’s Q4 2021 results showed total GGR for its Cyprus-based business reached $22.4m (€20.8m) compared with just $8.2m in the same period in 2020.
Cyprus casinos generated adjusted EBITDA of $5.2m in Q4 2021, compared with negative adjusted EBITDA of $1.2m in the Q4 2020, according to Melco.
“In Cyprus, with the surge in COVID-19 cases, authorities stepped up COVID-19 restrictions from the end of December 2021 by reducing the capacity at certain venues and increasing restrictions for unvaccinated people. However, such restrictions were eased from February 21, 2022 and our casinos remained open during the period,” Melco said in its report.