Macau casino developer Melco International and America’s Hard Rock restaurant chain have signed a deal to build and operate Europe’s largest casino in the Greek half of Cyprus.
The announcement of the €600m project was made by George Lakkotrypis, Greece’s minister of tourism, at a signing ceremony in Nicosia.
He said: "This opens the road to realising one of the largest infrastructure projects that has ever been done in our country. The resort will include the largest casino in Europe, with 136 gaming tables and 1,200 gaming machines."
There will also be a 500-room hotel and a 1,500-seat concert hall.Â Â
Lakkotrypis predicted that the development would increase the number of tourists visiting the Greek half of the island by 10%, from 3 million to 3.3 million.
The Melco Hardrock Resorts consortium has a 15-year exclusive gaming licence to run the tourism complex, which will be based in the southern coastal town of Limassol. This means that no other casinos will be allowed to open in that time.
Next year, the company plans to open four satellite casinos in other towns. These are likely to be small establishments in Famagusta, Nicosia, Paphos and Larnaca, with around five tables and 50 slot machines each.
Melco aims to have the smaller casinos operating next year, with the main resort scheduled to begin spinning its wheels in January 2020.
These will be the first casinos to be built in the southern half of Cyprus: up until now, opposition from the Greek Orthodox Church and concerns about the social effects of gambling have kept casinos to the northern half of Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey.
Andy Choy, president of Melco’s resorts and entertainment division, told The Associated Press that the consortium’s priority would be to control the project’s social and environmental impact.
Melco, one of the oldest companies in Hong Kong, is owned by billionaire businessman Lawrence Ho. Up until now the company has concentrated on Macau, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Image: The Sands Casino in Macau (Mayfair Casinos)