The Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority has allegedly tapped three international firms to conduct due diligence on junket operators working with the first integrated casino resort of Cyprus–City of Dreams Mediterranean–when it opens doors in late 2021.
It is acknowledged that all three organisations are trained in due diligence inspections and perform these inspections on large international casinos.
In the Asia-Pacific region, where casino gambling is a booming industry, junket operators are extremely popular. Their main role is to attract wealthy gamblers to the casino floor by providing them with free accommodation, travel, and other benefits.
Due to concerns about the origin of their funding, their reported links to Asian organised crime and involvement in money laundering, terrorist financing, and other illicit schemes, junket promoters have been attracting increasing attention in recent years.
The gambling regulator of the tiny Mediterranean island nation reportedly hired one firm from the United States, one from the United Kingdom, and one with offices in Cyprus and Malta to vet junket operators to serve the City of Dreams Mediterranean integrated resort to protect the nascent casino industry from being associated with illegal activities.
The Cyprus Gaming and Supervision Authority has entered the final stages of negotiating an official agreement, according to sources, and an announcement on the issue is expected soon. The task of all three companies will be to conduct due diligence on junket operators in order to prevent promoters involved in illegal activities from accessing the gambling industry in Cyprus.
Sources familiar with the discussions that were going on said: “we want the Cyprus casino to operate on the basis of international standards of full transparency, especially at a time when international pressure on Cyprus is increasing because of the citizenship by investment program and provision of passports to persons with criminal records.”
Cyprus announced earlier this month that it had begun a process of stripping 26 “golden” passports given to non-EU citizens who had invested in the country. The holders of such passports have been identified with potential criminal links as individuals.
Under an investment plan launched in 2013, Cyprus offers citizenship to non-EU citizens who commit to the nation a minimum investment of € 2 million. Earlier this year, the programme was overhauled to now include five different layers of due diligence, up from just one in 2013. Recently, however, Cyprus has faced strong criticism for failing to more carefully screen applicants for the so-called “golden” passports.
The island nation legalised casino gambling in the mid-2010s and in 2016 named Hong Kong-listed Melco Resorts & Entertainment as the first Cypriot integrated casino resort’s preferred operator. City of Dreams Mediterranean is currently under development in Limassol City and is scheduled to open doors by the end of 2021.
The integrated resort will feature a hotel, a full-blown casino with gaming tables and slot machines, conference and exhibition facilities, high-end retail space, and numerous food and beverage outlets, and is expected to improve the tourism brand of Cyprus and help the island nation battle seasonality and become a popular tourism hub throughout the year.