Greek Parliament to Vote on Online Gambling Legalization Proposal This Week

The Greek Parliament is set to vote on a draft legislation that includes measures for the legalization and regulation of online betting and gaming activities this week, local media reports. The bill aims to provide much needed revenue to the country’s coffers, to create new jobs, and to prevent illegal operators from targeting local players.

During a recent debate on the proposed legislation, Kamil Ziegler, CEO of the nation’s biggest gambling operator OPAP, said that Greece needs to introduce curbs on the illegal provision of gambling services as it is annually losing millions of euros to the black market. Mr. Ziegler pointed out that unlicensed operators annually collect between €300 million and €500 million from Greek players.

OPAP is currently the exclusive operator of sports betting services and lottery games in Greece. The company also provides its products in the Republic of Cyprus. Previously, OPAP was run by the state, but later on became a public company. It was eventually privatized back in 2013. The company annually contributes €780 million for the exclusive rights to operate certain lottery games and sports betting shops across the nation.

The draft legislation to be voted in the next few days includes a study comprised by research firm Deloitte, which claims that tax revenue of around €1 billion could be generated for the country’s coffers within the next four years, if the bill is voted into law.

The Hellenic Gaming Commission (Επιτροπη Εποπτειας & Ελεγχου Παιγνιων) also had its contribution to the push for the re-regulation of the local gambling industry. The regulator revealed that it had seized more than €5 million in illegal gambling proceeds in the period between 2005 and 2015 and had registered more than 18,000 violations of the nation’s gambling laws.

What Triggered Online Gambling Legalization Debates?

The new push for the regulation of online gambling and the launch of an industry overhaul is led by the Greek Ministry of Finance. If successful, the renewed efforts would create a system for licensing interested operators and would also introduce changes in the way Greece’s land-based casinos are operated.

Here it is important to note that debates over a sweeping reform in the way gambling services are provided in the country emerged at a time when Greek lawmakers are trying to agree on a new structure for the operation of video lottery terminals (VLTs).

In 2012, the Greek government selected OPAP as the exclusive operator of VLTs in the country. Under the terms of the operator’s license, it was allowed to roll out 35,000 gaming devices across its betting facilities and to operate them exclusively for a period of ten years or until 2022. The European Commission approved the scheme later that year. However, the operator is yet to install the machines as it has met multiple challenges over the years. For instance, land-based casinos have challenged its monopoly over the machines mainly due to competition concerns.

Social concerns have also been voiced in relation to the planned roll-out of 35,000 gaming machines across betting facilities. Opponents of the measure have argued that the easy access to VLTs would violate a 2011 responsible gambling law.

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