August 16th, 2011 | Published in Inrodution
In the recent months, the Greek government was racing against the clock to implement financial reforms which included online gambling. These alterations had to be in place prior to the next round of auditing by the IMF which is scheduled for the end of August 2011. Luckily the Financial Minister was able to get the bill passed by a voice vote following three straight days of debate.
Complete Change of Heart
Surprisingly, the Greek parliament did a complete U-turn on many of the controversial features from the draft proposal that was originally rejected by the European Commission. One proposal that was missing from the final legislation is the six month blackout period required before legislation and regulation are implemented. This is designed to protect the state-owned gambling monopoly OPAP. Also, the section that eliminates the number of licenses granted is also absent.
Blackout Period Proposal
The blackout period proposal has changed to allow European Union-licensed operators to function freely in Greece. Also, these operators will be permitted to advertise via the Internet and offline media outlets. Another favorable change from the government is that private online operators will be allowed to target Greek customers from servers located overseas during the initial six month transitional period. Once licenses have been awarded, companies may be required to relocate.
All European Union-licensed online gambling operators will be required to pay 30 percent GPT while players will pay only 10 percent tax on winnings. The transitional period will soon be established by the Control Committee. Online gambling industry experts expect to begin seeing an advertising war between operators for the Greek market once licenses are granted.
The Future of OPAP
Currently the Greek government has a 34 percent stake in OPAP. In this legislation there are articles to enhance the value of OPAP. For instance, in a new section OPAP will receive a license to operate all 35,000 video lottery machines set up across the country. Since the Greek government is considering selling OPAP to private operators, perhaps this is an effort to raise the valuation of the online casino to negotiate a better price.
This is a major step in the right direction for Greece. Just a few months ago it looked as if the country would never legalize online gambling due to the rigid government requirements in the bill. Apparently authorities have turned over a new leaf and become more flexible.