Is Atlantic City an Americanized version of Athens? Greek media outlet Ekathimerini reported that gambling revenue at casinos in Greece between January and August came to €199.3m, down 9.5% from the same period in 2012. Turnover was off 11.6% to €1.12b while the number of visitors coming through the casino doors fell 0.8% to 1.78m. If these trends continue through the rest of 2013, it would mark the fifth consecutive year in which Greek casinos reported a negative income trajectory, slightly behind Atlantic City’s nearly seven-year revenue decline since hitting its peak in 2006.
Casinos in Loutraki, Mount Parnitha, Patra, Rhodes, Halkidiki and Syros all reported significant declines in both revenue and turnover, while the casino on Corfu reported an 8.3% rise in turnover and an 11.5% rise in revenue to €3m. Not for nothing, but the Corfu casino is one of three state-owned gaming joints to have benefitted from a 1999 edict imposing a €12 per person admission tax on private casinos that the European Commission has since declared to be illegal state aid.
The Greek casino shortfall is doubly concerning considering the authorities have been waging an aggressive war against illegal gaming operations for some time now. Greece shut down over 1k such establishments in 2012, confiscating some 11k unlicensed gaming machines and arresting 5k individuals. In the first five months of 2013, police closed 363 illegal casinos, seized over 4k video lottery terminals and arrested nearly 1,900 individuals. Between January and June, police in the Attica region alone confiscated 81 roulette wheels and 1,280 electronic betting machines, roughly equivalent to the number of devices in legal operation at nearby casinos in Loutraki and Parnitha. Illegal casinos are believed to generate €150m annually for their operators while providing nothing for the cash-strapped Greek government.
Meanwhile, just as the Greek half of the island of Cyprus is planning to build its first casino, Macau casino junket operator Amax Holdings has abandoned its plans to open a casino on the Turkish half of the island. In July, the financially struggling Amax announced it had signed a letter of intent to acquire 51% of Southern Ruby Limited, which held exclusive rights to build a casino in the town of Gime in Northern Cyprus. But in a recent filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, Amax stated it had “decided not to proceed with the casino project as the parties could not compromise on finalizing the terms of a formal sale and purchase agreement.” Amax is reportedly pressing ahead with plans to acquire the the Grand Hotel and Casino on the Pacific island of Vanuatu.