Greece Opens Floodgates for Online Gambling

By Maria McCoyGoogle


Prior to the IMF’s audit scheduled for late August, Athens rushed to enact financial reforms including far-reaching gambling liberalization.  Evangelos Venizelos, the finance minister of Greece, managed to pass the bill by one voice vote following days of tumultuous debate.


In spite of opposition from the European Commission for some of the draft’s more controversial proposals, the Greek parliament backtracked on previous commitments and went ahead anyways.  The proposed six-month delay is not included in the legislation; likewise, protective regulation for government-owned OPAP is also not included.  Chief executive of the RGA, Clive Hawkswood, voiced appreciation for the constructive changes, though he remained concerned regarding appropriate levels of marketplace competition between OPAP and privately run operators.


EU-licensed casino operators will be able to operate their online casinos without any waiting period.  Due to advertising deregulation included in the legislation, advertising will be permitted in other forms of media including TV.  Beginning with the establishment of the Control Committee, there will be a six-month transition period; the date for said establishment has yet to be set.  Greeks will be able to access offshore casinos during this 6-month period.  Additionally, operators will pay a 30% tax whilst customers will only have to pay a ten percent tax on their winnings.  After the six months, the offshore casinos will have to move to Greek territory if they wish to continue to work with Greek customers.  Gambling pundits predict that a large-scale advertising battle will ensue in the new developing gambling market. 


The 34% government share in OPAP is still up in the air; it is unclear what the Greek ministry of finance plans to do with their share.  The new legislation, which provides exclusive rights to OPAP to run and/or subcontract the running of 35,000 video lotto machines, is expected to increases OPAP’s share value.  This move is perhaps a sign that Venizelos wants to raise OPAP share value before selling off all the government’s shares.


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