Gambling is an extremely popular pastime throughout Cyprus, but the two halves of the small island nation are at odds when it comes its legality. Cypriot gambling laws are very relaxed in the northern Turkish portion of the island, but in the south, most forms of gambling are illegal when they involve money. The attitude of southern Cyprus towards illegal gambling was vividly demonstrated when 42 elderly women were arrested yesterday for illegally gambling with money.
The incident took place in Limassol on the southern coast of Cyprus. Limassol is the island’s second largest city. Neighbors complained of a disturbance as dozens of elderly women came and went from a small local venue. When police investigated, they found 42 women, mostly aged 75 to 85, playing poker and gin rummy. The oldest was 95 years old. All women were detained, and were charged with gambling illegally. They have since been released.
This incident comes just weeks after police arrested a man in Athens who was said to be the head of a large network of electronic gambling operators to clients across Greece and Cyprus. The man owned and operated a central server out of his home that was powered some 300 illegal electronic gambling machines spread across the two countries. After police confiscated the server, raids began on all connected establishments that were offering illegal gambling services through the network.
Interestingly, in spite of the strong position taken against land-based gambling, internet gambling in Cyprus is legal. The Cypriot government offers licenses to a huge number of foreign gambling operators around the world. Locals, however, are forbidden from playing at these sites. Instead, players who wish to gamble online in Cyprus must utilize foreign-hosted internet gambling sites. The Cypriot government has tried several times in the past to bring control the use of foreign online gambling sites, but as in other places around the world, exercising this level of control is next to impossible.