Online Gambling News from Greece and CyprusBy: Rick Balding, Sunday December 19th 2010
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This week two of the smaller countries in Europe have also been in the news for developments in online gambling. In Greece it appears that steps are being taken for the better, but the news from Cyprus is not good.
In Greece gambling is conducted by the state owned monopoly OPAP. Though the government has been talking of privatizing OPAP for some time, it seems to be paying lip service to the requirements of the European Commission. No concrete step has been taken till now. Now the tenuous state of the Greek economy is making this privatization imminent because funds are required in the state treasury. Therefore the Greek government has announced a three-year privatization program with the objective of raising €7 billion through the sale of state owned companies including OPAP. A finance ministry spokesman told the Agence France Presse news agency that out of this €7 billion the government has plans to collect at least one billion euros in 2011. Apart from OPAP, the Greek government will invite private investment in two state lotteries and the state racetrack operator ODIE. The non-gambling organizations targeted in this program are the Athens International Airport, state defense contractor EAS and gas operators DEPA and DESFA. These steps have been necessitated because of near bankruptcy earlier this year, which was resolved by bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. However this has meant that the Greece government has to put austerity measures in place and generate funds by managing its assets better.
Cyprus had decided to swim against the current and had decided to ban online gambling altogether. A proposal to this effect has been submitted to the European Commission and their approval is awaited. Now, according to reports in the Cyprus Mail newspaper, the government has initiated action against the online gaming companies that are currently operating from Cyprus. These companies had opted for Cyprus because it was a convenient and tax-efficient. They will have to seriously consider moving out because the local police have handed over information on the online gaming companies to the Inland Revenue Department. Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told the newspaper that the revenue department would verify whether the income declarations filed by these companies are correct. It is believed that because of the inefficiencies in the tax department many companies in Cyprus, including online gaming companies, get away with tax evasion. The online gambling industry in Cyprus has an annual turnover of €2.5 billion and if a substantial portion decides to move out it could spell trouble for the small nation.
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