Greece’s online gambling plans get EC nod, applications flood in


greece-online-gambling-european-commission-nodGreece’s online gambling regulations have cleared their first European Commission (EC) hurdle as applications for new licenses flooded in just under the wire.

April 1 marked the end of the EC’s three-month standstill period for Greece’s new online gambling technical specifications, which seek to bring order to a market that has known only regulatory chaos for nearly a decade. A few more EC hurdles remain but these could be wrapped up by mid-June, after which new licenses could be issued.

Accordingly, Greek media reported Tuesday that all companies holding so-called ‘transitional’ online gambling licenses had submitted their applications for new online permits by the March 31 deadline. The Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) previously assured these operators that they could continue their Greek-facing operations past April 1 provided they submitted their paperwork on time.

Greece’s new licensing regime is a two-tiered affair with sports betting permits costing €3m and a license spanning casino and poker products available for €2m. Each type of license is valid for seven years.

There are some notable downsides to Greece’s new online regime, including a hefty 35% tax on gaming revenue, a €2 limit on online casino stakes and caps on maximum payouts, as well as limiting online casino marketing to the sites themselves.

The Greek government recently revealed its gambling market statistics for 2019, during which turnover totaled €16b, up 14.7% from 2018’s total, while gross gaming revenue rose 5.25% to €2.23b.

Online gambling accounted for €8.5b (53.3%) of total market turnover, up nearly one-fifth year-on-year. Online revenue hit €437.3m (19.6% of the total), up nearly 11% from 2018. Sports betting claimed roughly 73% of online revenue, well ahead of casino (23.9%) and poker (2.6%).

Greece’s struggling land-based casino market claimed an 11% share of overall revenue with €246.7m, down around €1.2m from 2018. Two-thirds of casino revenue came from slot machines.

Greek lottery and betting operator OPAP accounted for over 61% of Greece’s 2019 revenue, thanks mainly to its expanded video lottery terminal operations (although the company reported Wednesday that 99% of its operations were now on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Non-OPAP lottery products claimed a 7.8% slice of Greece’s 2019 pie with €174.4m (+0.7%) while horserace betting revenue fell 8.6% to €8.6m.