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Greek Online Gambling Law Passed

By: Joe Valentino, Saturday August 6th 2011
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The Greek government was racing against time to have some financial reforms, which included online gambling, in place before the next round of audit by the IMF scheduled for August end. The finance minister managed to get the omnibus bill passed by a simple voice vote after three days of debate.

Contrary to expectation, the Greek parliament has done a partial u-turn on some of the more controversial features of the draft proposal that were rejected by the European Commission. One of the proposals that is absent from the final legislation is the six-month blackout period prior to legalization and regulation designed to protect state owned monopoly OPAP. The clause limiting the number of licenses has also been apparently scrapped. RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood appreciated the positive changes, but added that there were yet some areas of concern in ensuring an equitable and competitive market place involving private operators and OPAP.

Instead of a blackout period for private operators applying for licenses from the Greek regulatory authority, EU-licensed operators will be allowed to operate freely in Greece. The operators will also be allowed to advertise across all online and offline media, including TV. Another favorable u-turn is that the private online gambling operators will be able to target Greek customers from offshore servers during the six-month transitional period. However, once licenses have been granted the licensees may be required to locate servers within Greece. The EU-licensed operators will pay 30% GPT and players will pay a 10% tax on winnings during the transitional period. This period will begin after the Control Committee to be established under the law has been formed. A date for the establishment of the Committee has not yet been set. The online gambling industry expects an advertising war to ensue as licensee hopefuls jostle for a market share of the Greek market. One of the operators who have lauded the amendments is Betfair. Earlier it had filed a complaint with the EC against the draft gambling law.

The Greek government holds a 34% stake in OPAP. The finance minister has in the recent past been ambivalent about the decision to ultimately sell off this stake to private operators. However, in this legislation there are moves to enhance the value of OPAP. Under the new measures, OPAP will receive an exclusive license to operate all the 35,000 video lotto machines to be set up in the country as part of gaming liberalization. OPAP will directly operate 16,500 machines and sub-contracting the rest to other operators. This could mean that the Greek government is trying to raise the valuation of OPAP so that it gets a better price.

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