Thursday, 19 November 2015 21:32

I bet you'll be gone soon

Being out and about a lot, I recently made yet another interesting observation: betting shops seemed to be sprouting like mushrooms. It turns out, though, their numbers are actually decreasing, but many keep changing locations in search of a cheaper locale.

I’ve always been intrigued by the rapid appearance and disappearance of places in town; quite often, I feel a bit sorry for their owners after having witnessed all the efforts put into their  opening. The concept of market feasibility studies appears not to have reached the island yet. Betting shops have fascinated me by their sheer numbers in my neighbourhood and I’d keep catching myself peering into them to see if they were actually busy and who goes there.

The only information I was able to find online about betting shops in Limassol was stories of arsons and attacks on their owners.

So I just walked into one and was lucky: the manager there was very chatty and happy to answer my mostly rather uninformed questions.

In betting shops, I found out one can bet for any sum from €1 upwards and choose between live sports, including football, basketball and tennis. I did look over the shoulder of a customer, but all the tables and numbers on his computer screen made me return to my conversation partner for more tangible information.

I wanted to find out if, in these economically difficult times, people would frequent those shops more or less. Was it all men? What age? What nationality? I found out that 95% of the customers were men and that there really was no average age, but the minimum age to play was 18.

“We have all the nationalities that Cyprus has,” explained the shop’s manager, who had been in the business for 15 years and was planning to make this year his last one.

The heydays were from around 2008-2010 when a ‘good customer’ would spend about €1,000 a week. “Today this sum is about €50 and I am happy if I am able to cover my costs. I get 10% of any money put in, regardless of whether  the player wins or loses. I always offer a free coffee and a sandwich if someone’s here for a long time: you do the math.

“The [betting shop] owners do not care; they come every week to collect their money.” One of a betting shop’s main expenses is the sports channel package, for which I was told CYTA holds the monopoly and costs €300 per month.

Apparently, there used to be rules as to where one could open a betting shop, but nowadays anything goes, which is why on Ayias Filaxeos road, for example, there were 12 betting shops at one time, now there are six.

“There is a lot of competition between different outlets and people are just shutting each other down. They don’t understand that if I have 10 customers and you open 200 metres down the street from me, we’ll both have five and will both have to close down in the end.”

I don’t intend to make any bets, but that this situation does not look too promising for anyone seems to be a safe one.

Article as featured in The Cyprus Weekly of November 6

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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