Hong Kong Pop-up Casinos Make Big Mark on Cyprus, Draw Big Money

FILE - People use the temporary casino during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new casino resort, in Zakaki, near southern city of Limassol on Friday, June 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – Ahead of a planned 2021 opening of Europe’s biggest casino, a 550-million euro ($664.03) gambling colossus, Cyprus is already reaping the benefits of a temporary “Pop-up” casinos luring big crowds of high-spending gamblers and a second is on the way.

Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho’s Melco International Development is building a City of Dreams (CDM) resort that will offer 136 tables and 1,200 gaming machines, a five-star, 500-room hotel and luxury villas, 11 restaurants, retail shops, sports and wellness centers and amphitheater.

In the meantime, he quickly followed the opening of a first temporary casino in Limassol with plans for another coming at Larnaca International Airport, giving gamblers a taste of playing games of chance as soon as they land.

Craig Ballantyne, President of CDM, told Vegas Slots OnLine (VSO): “Even though C2 is a pop-up casino, this property will give new meaning to the term. We’ve invested close to 13 million euros ($15.23 million) in this facility to ensure that every one of our guests experiences the renowned standards and quality of service which Melco, one of the world’s largest integrated resort operators, is famous for.”

The temporary venue was built inside an old superstore with a floor area of 4,600 square meters (49,514 square feet) allowing up to 1,000 customers to be hosted, the site said, adding that the government expects revenues from the casino and resort to bring in as much as 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and lure big spenders from Europe and the world, especially Asia.

The Larnaca casino will have two locations in the terminal, the airport operator said, in arrivals and departures, to get people coming and going.

It’s part of a 30-year casino license granted by the Cypriot government that also covers three additional satellite casinos in the territory with more temporary facilities to whet the appetite of gamblers before the big one opens.

Earlier in July, after the first pop-up had been open only a few weeks, Ballantyne said that, “So far, the number of visitors has exceeded our expectations and we are very gratified with the response from our guests,” the Cyprus Mail reported.

It’s bringing big-wheelers and high-stakes gamblers too, with more than 6,000 registering to become members of the C2 Rewards Club loyalty program.

“We believe the accelerating attendance rate and strong performance of new members joining the Cyprus Casinos C2 Rewards Club is driven by the strong, positive word of mouth and self-discovery by the market,” said Ballantyne.

“By the numbers, the most visitors have been Cypriots, followed by those from Greece, Israel, Romania, Russia and United Kingdom. The most popular games have been our state-of-the-art Slot Machines, followed by American Roulette,” he added.

The temporary facility opened June 28 in Limassol with 33 gaming tables and 242 slot machines, a Salon Prive VIP gaming area, Columbia Bistro restaurant and two bars and runs 24 hours a day non-stop and is drawing 2,000 people a day.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said that the permanent casino will create around 6,500 jobs, attract an additional 300,000 visitors to Cyprus each year and pour some 700 million euros ($828.5 million) into the economy annually.

“Our country is much more than just an attractive ‘sun and sea’ tourist destination,” Anastasiades said at a groundbreaking ceremony. “Cyprus has all the prerequisites to be established as a regional and, why not, global premium destination, a genuine point of reference for luxury tourism and responsible gaming.”

After a financial crisis that nearly bankrupted the country five years ago, Cyprus has rebounded with its economy projected to grow at around 3.5 percent annually in the next few years.

Ho, chief executive of Hong Kong-based Melco International Resorts and Entertainment, said the resort project is his company’s first expansion outside of Asia.

“Our project will contribute significantly to the country’s efforts for sustainable economic growth and an increase in employment rates,” he said.