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Bloomberry among top bidders for Cyprus casino

NICOSIA—Cyprus on Tuesday shortlisted three bidders to construct and operate a first-ever casino resort in the government-held south of the Mediterranean island.

The preferred bidders for the large complex are Nagacorp of Cambodia, Philippines-based Bloomberry Resorts Corp, and a consortium of Melco of Macau and Hard Rock Resort Cyprus.

The trio, chosen from eight initial bidders, will now enter a second round where a “complete proposal” is to be submitted, said the interior ministry.

The winning bidder for the 30-year license will choose where to build a super casino.

The ministry said the three were chosen for their experience in building and operating resort casinos and understanding of the Cypriot market.

“The ministry expresses its satisfaction with the level of interest demonstrated and looks forward to a successful completion of the process, as provided by law,” it said in a statement.

There have long been casinos in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, but opposition from the influential Greek Orthodox Church and misgivings among many Greek Cypriots about the social dangers of gambling have kept them out of the south.

Last week, parliament voted by 29 votes in favor, one against and 16 abstentions to approve legislation governing the running of casinos, which is a key part of the government’s plans to stimulate the island’s recovering eurozone economy.

The minimum requirement for the complex is 100 gaming tables and 1,000 machines.

The operator can have a smaller satellite casino, and another three-machine-only outlet.

The project is being fast-tracked in a bid to boost tourism and employment on the island, which has emerged from recession after the government was forced to accept crippling terms for a debt bailout by international lenders in March 2013.

The government hopes the resort can open as early as 2018 if everything goes according to plan.

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