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Greece Unveils New Gambling Law

26 January 2011 by admin

giorgos papakonistantinouOn Tuesday, Greek Minister of Finance Giorgos Papakonstantinou unveiled the new gambling bill, which would liberalize the market, allow online gambling and create more competition. The draft bill is an attempt for the cash-strapped nation to bring in hundreds of millions of euros to their budget. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in the Mediterranean country’s history, every bit of revenue helps.

Currently Greece’s gambling market consists of nine casinos, a state lottery, a horse racing operator and OPAP (translates to Greek Organization of Football Prognostics). OPAP is a monopoly where the government owns a majority stake (34%) and they have exclusive rights to sports betting and the lottery. Online gambling is illegal in Greece, as are all gambling machines, with the exceptions of slots in the casinos and machines run by OPAP.

The European Union has ruled that the ban on gambling machines and online gambling violates EU rules. Since then, the Greek government has been considering how best to comply with EU standards. The result was released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Finance.

If the draft bill is passed, Greece would auction between 15 and 50 licenses for online gambling companies. There are currently approximately 250 gambling websites illegally operating in Greece, unregulated by the Greek government (though the idea that they are totally unregulated is a myth). In addition to allowing and licensing online gambling, the bill would legalize low-stake gambling machines. The bill would allow up to 30,000 licenses to be handed out for the machines, with each license lasting ten years.

It is good to see that, unlike France, Greece will not put a cap on the payout rate for online casinos. They will, however, wisely create a payout floor, a minimum rate that the casinos must pay out. Online casinos and the low-stake gambling machines would both be required to have a payout rate of at least 80%. Any reputable online casino already has a payout rate higher than that. In fact, all of the casinos featured on OCS have a payout rate above 90%. If passed, the bill would provide the government with a 6% gambling tax on revenue from online casinos and the gambling machines.

In addition to liberalizing the market, Greece has been trying to sell off their stake in OPAP, but so far with no success. Teddy Sagi, the founder of Playtech, wants to acquire the company, but settling on a price has been difficult. The sale, and OPAP’s business, has also been hurt by strife from the labor union who, upset with the austerity measures, have been striking and are continuing to plan future strikes.

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