Online Gambling Revenues in Greece Dwarf Land-Based Casinos

Greek flag and bet keys side by side
Greek’s online gambling revenues hit record highs in the first 11 months of 2018, bolstered by betting on the FIFA World Cup.

30-second summary

  • Profits up 30% year on year in 2018
  •  Latest figures cover first 11 months
  • 15 companies specialize in online gambling
  • They paid taxes of €124.5m (£109.3m; $141.7m), versus casinos’ taxes of just €70m (£61.5m; $79.7m)
  • New regulatory regime imminent

The latest financial figures for 2018 demonstrated the clout of online gambling operators in Greece. Revenues and profits dwarfed land-based opportunities for betting and gambling.

Record revenues

The figures cover only the first 11 months of 2018, through November. Gross gaming revenue hit a peak of €356m (£312.6m; $404.3m), a 30% increase year on year.

Among them, the 15 registered online gambling companies also earned bigger profits, up €125m (£109.7m; $142.3m) over the same period in 2017.

Revenues between January and June 2018 reached nearly €183m (£160.7m; $208.4m). For the following five months, revenues hit €173.2m (£152.1m; $197.3m). The FIFA World Cup ran for a month between mid-June and mid-July, but the figures suggest bettors lost none of their enthusiasm for a wager following the tournament’s conclusion.

The government’s tax take for this period was €124.5m, far higher than €70m taxes handed over by land-based casinos. For the second year in a row, taxes from online gambling have been significantly higher than that paid by the casinos. Taxes for both online and land-based are set at a rate of 35% of revenues.

Total turnover for 2018, once the December figures are in, is likely to be more than €6.6bn (£5.8bn; $7.5bn), significantly higher than the €5.3bn (£4.7bn; $6.0bn) in 2017.

This growth demonstrates the attractiveness of online gaming in Greece. The shift by consumers will be welcomed by the government, which has struggled in recent years with austerity budgets.

The big players

Foreign companies dominate the online sphere in Greece’s burgeoning gambling industry. The biggest is Gambling Malta, which is behind the Stoiximan brand. Its revenue rose 7% in the first 11 months of 2018, to €145.5m (£127.7m; $165.7m).

British-owned Bet365 holds second position in the Greek online market. Its revenues were up an astonishing 23% in the period, reaching €135.2m (£118.7m; $153.9m).

Sportingbet, also a British-based company, had the third highest revenues, with €44.6m (£39.1m; $50.8m). While this is markedly lower than the two top companies, Sportingbet now has a 20% share of the Greek market, up from 6% in 2017.

New regulatory regime

Along with the 15 online gambling operators, Greece has nine casinos. All 24 companies still have so-called “transitional” licenses, which were issued in 2011. The Greek government has been under considerable pressure since then to reorganize its regulations. The 2018 figures will increase the urgency to do so.

On January 15, the Greek regulator, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (EEEP), published its planned new regulations, not without controversy. The 24 companies were invited to comment on the proposals but were given only ten days to respond to a large number of documents, available only in Greek. The EEEP was forced to push back its deadline until February 4.

All 24 companies are expected to apply for permanent licenses once the new regulatory regime is in place. The EEEP operates a blacklist of online gambling companies and any company that has been added within the past 12 months will have its license application rejected.

It is unclear quite where this leaves GVC Holdings. GVC was added to the blacklist in recent months. It owns the Sportingbet brand, currently Greece’s third-biggest online operator. GVC also owns brands such as Ladbrokes, Gala, Coral, and Eurobet, which have a presence in Greece. The company was hit with a demand for back taxes of €200m (£175.m; $227.8m) in January 2018, which it is still appealing.

The new online gambling licenses will be valid for five years. They are priced at €4m (£3.5m; $4.6m) for companies offering sports betting only, and €5m (£4.4m; $5.7m) for companies offering sports betting plus other gambling products.

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