OPAP launches new products and fends off Cyprus monopoly allegations

opap-new-products-cyprus-monopolyA day after posting improved profits but falling revenues, Greek betting monopoly OPAP announced the launch of some new products, including fixed-odds virtual games and greyhound racing. The company will conduct a trial run of these products in some parts of the country beginning March 22. Other products, including car racing, are reportedly on the way.

OPAP is getting a bad rap on the island of Cyprus, where critics say the company stands to unfairly gain from the republic’s proposed new gambling bill. Online betting games would be prohibited under the law, but OPAP games such as Proto, Joker and KINO are not explicitly banned. This has local online gaming operators and prominent politicians concerned that OPAP is effectively being handed a monopoly. Not so, said Attorney General Petros Clerides, who claims OPAP’s games aren’t banned because they aren’t played by the player directly online.

Nicolas Papadopoulos, Chairman of the House Finance Committee, isn’t buying it. In his eyes, as written, the bill won’t ban gambling, “it will legalize it for only one company.” Papadopoulos wants to know why the finance ministry is in such a rush to hamstring OPAP’s competition. Rikkos Erotokritou, chairman of the House Institutions Committee, also wants the attorney general to explain why OPAP deserves a monopoly, something “categorically banned from reason, but also the spirit of EU law.”

Papadopoulos also commented on the folly of implementing legislation that attempts to ban certain forms of online gambling. As politicians around the globe have discovered, it’s one thing to write such a law; quite another thing trying to enforce it. Citing the “massive technical matters” involved, Papadopoulos and co. “have our doubts over whether this could be a success … it is naïve to think that we can stop [online gambling] with filters and laws.” Beware of Greeks bearing common sense…