As part of an agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund the Greek government needs to sell off state owned assets to raise 19 billion euros by 2015. This selling of assets is a main condition of the 130 billion euro bailout given to Greece this year. OPAP the Greek state controlled gaming monopoly, one of Europe’s largest gaming companies is the most profitable state owned company in Greece.
It is central to the Greek government’s efforts to prove that it is pushing ahead with the privatisation of its assets.OPAP had the state monopoly for sports betting and some other gaming and the legality of this was questioned at European Union level by gaming operators from outside Greece who were refused Greek gaming licences. There are ongoing court cases being brought by William Hill and the online gaming groups Stanley Bet and Sporting Bet.
Also within Greece online operators questioned the legality of the state controlled OPAP being taxed at a lower level than online operators. (See article: Greece Plans to Increase Gambling Taxes). Within the next few months the Greek courts will rule on this subject.OPAP has been allowed by the European Commission to keep its monopoly over some areas of gambling in Greece for years to come. This should help with the sale of the government’s stake in OPAP but the imposition of new higher taxes will lower profits and so affect the sale. A tax of 30 per cent will be placed on profits until 2020 and after that there will be a 5 per cent levy until 2030. The European Commission has given permission to OPAP to continue to operate 13 games of chance until 2030 and it will also maintain its monopoly over 35 000 video lottery terminals until 2020.The Greek government owns 34 percent of OPAP which made a profit of 126 million euros from January to June 2012. The initial plan was to sell off 29 per cent of this holding but now the sale will be of 33 per cent. OPAP is worth around 450 million euros on the Greek stock market. The final date for expressions of interest in the company is the 19th of October. There will be two parts to the tender, after those interested make a declaration of interest they will be asked to place a binding offer. The Greek government hopes to have sold the company by early next year.