Obtaining a Betting Licence in Cyprus

 

Cyprus is a traditionally business hub and one of the strongest world’s trade centres, due to its attendance of forex regulators and its attractive tax regime. Though legalized betting centres are fairly new to Cyprus, they are also quite duly restricted. That is not to say that it is impossible or even very difficult for one to obtain a Cyprus betting license.

 

Legislative Framework

 

The Betting Law of 2012 (Law 106(I)/2012), which has been repealed by the Betting Law of 2019 (Law 37(I)/2019) (the “Law”), introduced a partial legislative framework for legislating betting activities, and proclaimed the National Betting Authority (the “Authority”), that constitutes an independent administrative authority which has financial independence and autonomy, having as main responsibilities the licensing and supervision of all the betting and bookmakers activities, as well as the practice of gambling operators within the Republic of Cyprus.

 

The Authority offers two Classes of Cyprus betting license. The Class A is offered for the provision of carrying out betting services within licensed premises excluding online betting services and horse racing betting (land-based betting) and the Class B license is offered for the provision of electronic betting services excluding slot machines, on-line casino games of chance provided with a direct link and electronic horse racing (online betting). Class A (land-based) betting services may offer their services through their own establishments or through authorised representatives, and in this case a separate license is necessary. On this note, the Authority may issue the following classes of licenses: (a) Class A bookmaker’s licence (land-based betting), (b) Class B bookmaker’s licence (online betting), (c) Class A authorised representative’s licence and (d) Licence for premises.

 

Licensing Regime – Legal and technical requirements

 

According to Article 32 of the Law, an application for a Class A or B bookmaker’s licence may only be submitted by a company limited by shares which (a) is established either in the Republic or abroad and which has a branch in the Republic of Cyprus (registered at the Department of Registrar of Companies as a domestic or foreign company, respectively) and its main activity is the provision of betting services, (b) has share capital of at least five hundred thousand euros (€500.000,00), issued and paid up (the required capital applies to both Cypriot and overseas companies) and (c) is accompanied by a bank guarantee of five hundred and fifty thousand euro (€550.000,00), from a commercial bank offering banking services in Cyprus or in a member state of the European Union or a cooperative bank, expiring six months after receipt of the license. Class B applicants are subject to the additional requirement of establishing a back-up server within the Republic of Cyprus which shall be linked to the Authority’s computerized systems in order to have the ability to facilitate real time transactions and information’s about betting activities.

 

In line with Article 33 of the Law, a person is considered capable of and suitable for acquiring a Class A or B bookmaker’s licence when the Authority finds that that person (a) has or can secure appropriate resources and maintain the minimum reserves required – which are decided on by the Authority – to ensure that winnings are paid to players, (b) maintains a suitable control and accounting control system in place for the betting services offered, (c) applies terms and conditions when providing betting services which, in the Authority’s view, ensure appropriate player protection, and (d) ensures the suitability of the operation of any other equipment which may be used.

 

Furthermore, in accordance with Article 19(1) of the Law, no Class A or B bookmaker’s licence or authorised agent’s licence shall be issued or renewed unless the Authority is satisfied that the applicant, officer, beneficial owner and holder of a significant interest in the legal person (a) has not been convicted of a relevant offence by a competent Court of the country and (b) has, at the time the application is submitted, turned 18 years old.

 

Further to the above, there are also some technical requirements regarding the obtaining of Class A or B licence: (a) Class B services may be provided only through a specialized website address using a “.com.cy” domain from the Cyprus cydns regulatory and (b) the betting platform must meet all the criteria as described in the Directive 13/2016, issued by the Authority on the basis of the provisions of the Betting Law 2012 (Law 106(I)/2012).

 

Such stringent requirements aim to ensure that only financially stable gambling operators enter the market and that only established local or international operators of gambling businesses apply for interactive Cyprus betting license.

 

Application process, payable fees and related matters

 

The application to obtain or renew a Class A or B bookmaker’s licence or authorised agent’s licence shall be submitted to the Authority along with the payment of the relevant fee, with the use of the form issued by the Authority, and shall include the required information and details in accordance with Article 18 of the Law. After the submission of the application, the Authority commences an initial evaluation of the application according to the supporting documents and the necessary certifications. The application must be accompanied, inter alia, with a declaration form of the person responsible for the licensed betting premises, as well. The applicant is thereafter informed about any missing documents/further clarifications that need to be given to the Authority and after the submission of any additional documents and the necessary background checks, the Authority conducts the final evaluation of the application. The application is then brought forward to the Authority’s board for the final decision and the applicant is informed about the board’s decision. Finally, the licence is delivered to the successful applicant.

 

All licenses are issued for one or two years and may be renewed on application.

 

In regard to the payable tax, every Class A or B licensed bookmaker pays the Republic of Cyprus a combined rate of 13% which consist of 10% betting tax and 3% contribution tax on the net proceeds from the licensed Class A or B bookmaker’s bet (Article 74 of the Law).

 

It is also important to highlight that the Authority can revoke or suspend a license in the event of failure to comply with the regulations, under Article 25 and Article 26 of the Law. Furthermore, as Article 23 of the Law determines, a Class A or B bookmaker’s licence or authorised agent’s licence may not be transferred or assigned in any way to another person.

 

AML Compliance

 

The Authority, in an effort to guide the market into a uniform implementation of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which has incorporated into domestic legislation through the amending of the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2007-2018, has dedicated its efforts to issue both an AML directive and a practical guide addressed at online and land-based operations. At the moment, what is practically occurring is defined in Article 62 of the Law, which provides that accepted payment methods for Class B licensed bookmaker are debit card or credit card or any other electronic payment. No cash transactions are allowed for Class-B licensees electronic bets. Moreover, Class B licensees are prohibited from accepting a bet, unless in the account maintained in the name of the player are sufficient funds to cover the amount of the bet and after receiving the Class B license, the licensee is obliged to maintain a valid bank account at an authorized banking institution operating in Cyprus.

 

It is also worth mentioning that a continuously updated registry of the licensed bookmakers, authorised representatives and licensed premises, as well as all the licensed companies for the provision of online betting services are published in the Authority’s official website for the public.

 

Conclusion

 

The Law, as a relatively new piece of legislation, introduced new products for the licensees and power for the Authority, unified certain sectors of the industry and allowed innovation to flourish, ultimately positioning Cyprus as an international gaming hub. This legislation was the outcome of a long and constructive dialogue between the relative state authorities, social partners, licensed operators and all relative stakeholders.

 

For more information on betting licences and related issues feel free to contact us at info@playbell.com

 

Author: 

 

Antrea Ioannou, Associate and Andrea Stefani, Partner

 

 

The above article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice.