The government of Cyprus and the National Betting Authority (NBA) have said they want to force gambling operators to share their data with academics and treatment specialists as they touted a renewed focus on safer gambling.
Speaking at SiGMA Balkans in the recently built City of Dreams Mediterranean integrated resort, Ioanna Fiakkou, chair of the NBA, explained that the regulator is “investing in informing the industry on safer gambling, implementing regulations, AML policies and more”.
At the core of this plan, a new “Gambling Academy” will start operation before the end of the year, providing educational services with a responsible gambling focus for industry stakeholders.
Alongside this educational drive, the NBA said it has submitted a legal proposal to the minister of health to include gambling addiction as a public health issue, which could lead to gambling addiction being included in medical screenings.
Speaking on a separate panel later in the day, Christina Christoforou, the head of safer gambling and business development directorate at the NBA, touted new technologies to help further improve player protection.
“The industry holds a vast amount of data. There should be a regulatory requirement to have them work with mental health professionals and other academics. This way academics can use real-life data. This can benefit players' protection and society because it reduces the cost of harmful gambling, and benefit operators because it ensures they have a sustainable stream of revenue,” Christoforou said.
The NBA has also undertaken research on gambling participation, releasing a gambling prevalence study earlier this year and is planning a study on gambling among young people and other vulnerable groups, according to Fiakkou.
The “Gambling and Problem Gambling In The Republic Of Cyprus 2022” study found that 55 percent of Cypriots have gambled in the past year, while the problem gambling rate is 1.5 percent.
Internally, the NBA is also making changes to help it transform its compliance and regulation system, which it says will lead to a “decrease in licence compliance costs”.
“Embracing technology is core to our approach. We have digitised our systems and are in the process of implementing a new software system as well as a new information system. A new betting monitoring and reporting system will also be introduced by the end of the year,” Fiakkou said.
The Cypriot government submitted the details of this new monitoring system to the European Commission on September 1.
Over the next year, the role of the NBA will be expanded and strengthened, as the regulator prepares for the launch of land-based bingo services which are “coming” later this year, according to Fiakkou.
“We will put forward regulations for other games too. Improving legislation is necessary as research shows prohibition can lead players to services without protections,” Fiakkou said.
No details were given on what those game types could be and there was no mention of opening up online casino games in the country.
In 2021, the growing success of the country’s gambling industry led it to being called a pillar of the country's economy by finance minister Konstantinos Petridis.
Petridis claimed in 2021 it accounted for 2.98 percent of the country’s GDP.
In 2022, gambling continued to grow to more than 3.5 percent of the country’s entire GDP compared with just 0.99 percent of GDP in 2016, according to the NBA.
This has led to increased government revenue, including the creation of 1,350 jobs in the land-based sector and an additional 300 people employed by operators, as well as befitting numerous advertising, financial, and legal services jobs, according to Fiakkou.