Gambling Liberalization to Save Greek Economy

08/10/2011
By Tommie ClarkGoogle

 

Before the scheduled IMF audit at the end of August, the Greek government was rushing to push through financial reforms that include a new online gambling bill.  The Greek finance minister succeeded in passing the bill by one voice vote after days of difficult debating.

 

Against expectations, the parliament in Athens pulled a one-eighty regarding many of the draft proposal’s controversial components that had already received thumbs down from the European Commission.  The legislation does not include the proposed six-month waiting period before general legalization; it also lacks regulation proposed that would have provided some protection for OPAP, the state-owned online casino.  The license-limiting clause, apparently, has also been omitted.  Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, expressed appreciation for the positive changes, though he also stated that their remained certain concerning areas regarding the balance of the market place competition between private operators and OPAP. 

 

Casino operators who are licensed by the European Union will be allowed to operate freely in Greece with no waiting period at all.  There will be a six month transition period starting from the establishment of the Control Committee on online gambling; a date has yet to be confirmed.  During the six-month transitional period, Greek customers will be allowed to access casinos located on offshore servers.  After that period, the casinos will have to relocate their servers to Greek territory.  During the transitional period, operators will be taxed 30%, but players will only be taxed 10% on winnings.  Online gambling experts expect that a full-scale advertising war will take place while casinos wrestle for their share in the Greek market. 

 

OPAP is partly owned by the Greek government – 34% to be exact.  It is not yet clear whether or not the Greek finance minister plans to sell off the country’s shares in the company.  The new legislation does include measures to increase the share value of OPAP.  One such measure is exclusive rights to operate the 35,000 video lotto machines expected to be spread throughout the country; however, OPAP will not actively operate all the machines and is expected to subcontract about 16,500 of them.  This move could be a sign that the Greek finance ministry is trying to increase the share value of OPAP prior to selling it.

 

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