British Army Claims It Has Eradicated Illegal Casinos From Its Corner of Cyprus

Posted on: April 10, 2019, 07:04h. 

Last updated on: April 10, 2019, 07:11h.

British military police in Cyprus have said they have effectively wiped out illegal casinos from the vicinity of the two British Army bases on the island.

British Army
Seized gambling equipment at the Episkopi British military base,near the southern port city of Limassol in 2016. Soldiers used an excavator to crush illegal roulette wheels and slot machines. (Image: Petros Karadjias/AP)

News of the operation comes after Macau-based gaming giant Melco announced it would begin the construction this month of the City of Dreams Mediterranean, which promises to be Europe’s biggest casino.

Southern Cyprus — the part of the island that is ethnically and politically Greek — enacted a bill to legalize casino gaming in 2015, creating one license to operate a single casino resort and a number of smaller satellite casinos.

Melco opened a temporary casino in Limassol, the second biggest city last year, the republic’s first legal casino, but not the island’s — casino gaming has been available in the Turkish north for some time.

Nevertheless, gambling is illegal in the military bases that Britain retained after the island gained independence from colonial rule in 1960, 14 years before Turkey invaded the north in response to a coup on the island orchestrated by the Greece’s ruling far-right military junta.

Four-Year Campaign

Superintendent Dinos Petrou of the Sovereign Base Areas Police (SBA) said nine illegal casinos had been closed down following a four-year campaign against illicit gambling within the jurisdiction and beyond.

Petrou said the SBA had worked jointly with Cypriot law enforcement to target gambling dens that fell beyond its remit. The shuttered casinos had generated hundreds of thousands of euros each year.

Ten people had received prison sentences and 20 more heavy fines as a result of the investigation, he added. Thirty of the 1,500 personal computers seized during the raids have been donated to local schools.

Armed Forces at Risk

“We have been working tirelessly for the past four years now to ensure that we close down all of these illegal casinos and today we are delighted to be able to confirm, that has now happened,” Petrou said.

We have donated a considerable amount of police hours to combating this crime and through the outstanding work of our officers and with the help of our partners at the Cyprus Police, who have played a major role alongside us, we have been able to succeed and bring many offenders to justice.”

Studies have consistently suggested that members of the armed forces are at a higher risk of problem gambling than the general population. A study by the University of Georgia recently reported that rates of pathological gambling and problem gambling were much higher than average among US military veterans, recruits, and current service members.

The US Defense Department has been criticized for allowing slot machines on US overseas bases that rake in millions for the federal government, none of which goes to problem gambling support programs for veterans.