Greece is forging ahead with plans to impose a 35% flat tax on all online gambling revenue, a move that could help the country’s floundering finances while discouraging new operators from entering the market.
On Sunday, the Greek parliament approved its latest omnibus financial bill, approval of which was necessary in order for the cash-strapped country to release the latest tranche of bailout funds from international lenders.
The gambling portion of the omnibus bill scrapped the existing 30% to 35% variable online gambling tax in favor of a flat 35% rate across all gambling products. The governing Syriza party expects the change, which will be applied retroactively to Jan. 21, 2016, will provide the state’s depleted tax coffers with an annual €54m in tax revenue.
The new regime applies to all 24 online operators to whom Greece issued ‘temporary’ licenses in 2011. The Greek government also intends to proceed with plans to issue permanent online gambling licenses to replace those 24 temporary permits, which will reportedly include upfront fees of €3m for the initial five-year term of each license.
The 35% tax rate already applied to former state-owned betting monopoly OPAP, which is said to have pushed for the increased rate in a bid to discourage new international competition from entering the market.
OPAP has been the beneficiary of numerous preferential rulings by the Greek government over the years, leading several international operators to file unfair trade protests with the European Commission, the status of which remain unresolved.
OPAP recently shook up its upper management ranks, naming Damian Cope as its new CEO. Cope, a former managing director international at UK bookies Ladbrokes, replaces former CEO Kamil Ziegler, who was doing double duty as both CEO and chairman. Cope will assume the CEO mantle as of July 1, while Ziegler will carry on as chairman.