Greece’s Online Gaming Laws Pass First EC Hurdle

Greece’s online gaming laws have passed the first European Commission (EC) hurdle as new licence applications poured in just below the wire.

April 1 marked the conclusion of the EC’s three-month standstill period for Greece’s latest technical standards online gaming, which promise to bring order to a market that has known only regulatory uncertainty for nearly a decade. A few more EC barriers remain but by mid-June these could be cleared up, after which new licences could be released.

Accordingly, Greek media announced on Tuesday that by the March 31 deadline all companies holding so-called ‘transitional’ online gambling licences had submitted their requests for new online licences. Previously, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) told these operators that they will be able to continue their Greek-facing operations past April 1 provided they send their paperwork on time.

The new licencing system for Greece is a two-tiered affair with sports betting licences costing € 3 million and a licence covering casino and poker goods available at € 2 million. Every form of licence has seven years of validity.

There are some notable downsides to the current online system in Greece, including a strong 35 percent tax on gaming income, a € 2 limit on on online casino stakes and overall payout limits, as well as restricting online casino marketing to the sites themselves.

Recently, the Greek government announced its gambling industry figures for 2019, during which turnover amounted to € 16b, up 14.7 percent from the total of 2018, while gross gaming revenues rose 5.25 percent to € 2.23b.

Online gaming accounted for € 8.5b (53.3 percent) of overall sales on the market, up almost one-fifth year on year. Online sales amounted to € 437.3 million (19.6 percent of the total), up almost 11 percent from 2018. Sports betting has claimed approximately 73% of online sales, well ahead of casino (23.9%) and poker (2.6%).

Greece’s declining land-based casino industry reported an 11 percent share of total revenue of € 246.7 million, down some € 1.2 million from 2018. Slot machines accounted for two thirds of casino revenue.

Greek lottery and betting operator OPAP accounted for more than 61 percent of Greece’s 2019 sales, mainly thanks to its increased video lottery terminal operations (although the company announced Wednesday that 99 percent of its operations were now on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Non-OPAP lottery goods reported a 7.8% slice of Greece’s 2019 pie with € 174.4 million (+ 0.7%) while horserace betting income dropped 8.6% to € 8.6 million.