Major Changes on the Way with New Greek Gambling Laws

Major Changes on the Way with New Greek Gambling LawsThere had been the hope that the Greek government would licence and regulate the country’s online gambling market. Now this does not appear to be the case anymore and new laws are to be enacted on the 5th of December 2012. Both online gambling operators within Greece and those outside the country are very disappointed that instead of opening up and regulating the Greek gambling industry, there will be new taxes and those seeking the new licences and outside operators are calling the new laws “protectionist”.
Gambling in Greece was run by the state controlled operator OPAP which is the most profitable Greek state owned company and therefore vital to the governments efforts to secure bailout funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The Greek government is in the process of selling off its part of OPAP as part of a privatisation agreement linked to the bailout. This is at the stage now of offers from the eight groups interested in buying the 34% owned by the Greek state. In order to make the sale more attractive the European Commission has extended OPAP’s licence a further ten years from 2020 to 2030. OPAP has also been permitted to oversee online gambling and has retained its monopoly in some areas of gaming (See article: Greek Government to Sell OPAP which will Keep Monopoly).Along with the fact that OPAP will keep its monopoly in some sectors there is also the question of new taxes which are a source of discontent for gaming operators. There will be a tax of 30% on gambling sites’ profits and players’ winnings from online betting and online poker will also be taxed at 10%. It is thought that this new tax on winnings may cause OPAP’s income to drop by about a third as many Greek players may stop gambling.

These new taxes are a major source of concern for operators outside of Greece as they will be required to buy a licence to operate in Greece and also under the terms of the licence will have to pay a retrospective tax on the profits they made in 2010 and 2011. The Remote Gambling Association has called on the European Commission to investigate what it considers to be protectionism in the Greek gambling industry.

There is general disappointment that the European Commission has not regulated the online gambling industry and there are several ongoing court cases against countries which are not complying with European Union legislation in the area of competition. Betfair, the online gambling exchange has withdrawn from the Greek market due to the new laws and a lack of clear information on online gambling regulation.

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