LIMASSOL, Cyprus — A new casino resort in Cyprus that is expected to be Europe's biggest will be the centerpiece of the Mediterranean island's strategy to become a luxury tourism destination, the country's president said Friday.
Nicos Anastasiades said the 550 million euro ($651 million) City of Dreams Mediterranean casino resort is the biggest investment project ever undertaken in Cyprus.
He said that once operational in 2021, the resort 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.
Lawrence 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.
The resort 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 an amphitheater.
Ho said a temporary casino opening on June 28 close to the construction site will operate until the resort is completed. The temporary casino will include 33 tables, 242 slots, and a VIP gaming area.
Four other satellite casinos will also open this year across Cyprus.