One of the largest European betting groups, Greek OPAP, hinted that the government could put to a vote the much awaited bill to change Greek gambling laws. If the bill passes, gambling in Greece could be liberalized as early as August.
The Greek government holds a 34% stake in OPAP, which analysts consider more valuable than the Panthenon. The upcoming liberalization of video-lotto and online sportsbooks in Greece is regarded as a major boost for the company, which in turn will increase its value prior to the next year’s expected sale of the government’s share.
Yannis Spanoudakis, CEO of the company told reporters: “The government is expecting EU comments and modifications possibly that will be from other member states. This process is to be concluded on July 6. If the government schedules well that process, we can see this bill being implemented and voted in by the Greek Parliament…in July, August”.
In March the Greek government initially submitted a different version of the gambling law to the European Commission for approval. The approval was not given due to the business-unfriendly and anti-competitive structure of the previous law. The ruling party believed that the first draft of the new regulations could have potentially turned Greece into one big casino. No official date for the resubmission of they new version of the bill to EC has yet been given.
The OPAP monopoly will retain exclusive rights for online betting and lottery in Greece until 2020 and the government plans to further extend it by ten more years. Spanoudakis expressed doubts that an open Greek sportsbooks market could shatter OPAP’s monopolistic position.
Yannis Spanoudakis reminded online gambling news in Greece about a similar situation in France: “We have seen in France it has not changed it. Most likely the Greek government is applying this kind of strategy. Open the internet market and eventually maintain the rest under tight control.”
The financial standing of OPAP is far from ideal. The gambling monopoly showed a thirteen percent decrease in Q1 profits which analysts attribute to the reckless spending of the Greek ruling socialist party which came close to bankrupting the country. However, OPAP introduced several new games this April and outlined a strategy to offer live betting and a prepaid card service which may possibly result in better news in Q1 of 2012.