Greece Strips Ex-State Gambling Monopoly of Online License

  • Operator OPAP previously had a monopoly on Greece's gambling sector
  • Former temporary license holder Goalbet questioned the legality of OPAP’s online betting license
  • It alleged the company did not undergo the same vetting process as other licensed operators
  • The Greek Council of State has sided with Goalbet, leading to OPAP's license revocation
greek flag and euro coins
The Council of State in Greece has stripped OPAP, the betting and lottery operator, of its online sports betting license. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

OPAP online betting license invalidated

OPAP, the betting and lottery operator in Greece, has had its online sports betting license revoked by the Greek authorities.

the Council of State has rendered OPAP’s online betting license invalid

OPAP was previously the state monopoly operator of the gambling sector. In recent times, the country has been opening up the gambling sector, with a whole new licensing framework in place. 

The utmost administrative court in Greece, the Council of State, has rendered OPAP’s online betting license invalid.

The decision was originally taken in July but only made public on September 19. OPAP has significant retail operations throughout the country which will not be affected by the loss of the online license. 

Claims of illegal operation

It was Austrian operator Goalbet that originally challenged the legal standing for OPAP’s online betting license. At the time, OPAP was still under the ownership of the Greek state. 

Goalbet claimed that OPAP did not undergo the same stringent application and vetting procedure to obtain an online betting license as the 24 other operators that got temporary licenses to operate in 2011. 

Goalbet claimed that OPAP did not undergo the same stringent application and vetting procedure

It was at the end of 2018 that these temporary licenses were all revoked, except for OPAP’s. The Hellenic Gaming Commission had allowed OPAP to keep operating online in 2014. 

Greek government invites compensation claims

In the Council of State’s recent ruling, OPAP was deemed to have been operating illegally since 2011. The 24 operators that had temporary licenses can now put in a claim against OPAP for financial compensation for lost earnings during the intervening period.

The Greek government is looking for back taxes from the 24 operators worth millions if they want to be part of the newly regulated online gambling sector. One of the operators on this temporary blacklist is GVC Holdings, the parent company of Ladbrokes and Coral.

New online regulatory framework

There have been numerous iterations of online gambling frameworks in Greece in recent years. The newest deadline for the implementation of such a framework is at some stage in 2020. A new government took power in summer 2019 and is looking at hurrying these efforts somewhat.

The new regulations look like having hefty license fees. Under the latest regulations proposal, the initial license fee for online sports betting would be $4.6m, with an additional $1.3m needed for those looking to offer non-sports betting products. 

Lack of success for OPAP

Despite OPAP operating in the online sector for a few years, it did not see much success. In 2014, it launched the Pame Stoixima online sports betting platform. This came after OPAP invested in a rival betting company, Stoiximan.

The business also made significant improvements to the online offering back in November 2018. However, this was still no competition for the overseas online gambling platforms that target Greek residents. 

Most recent figures

The OPAP company did see a 5.7% rise in revenue year-on-year for the first half of 2019, with revenues nearly reaching $862m. Net profit rose by 39% up to almost $102m. 

OPAP’s launch of an online lottery has helped boost revenues in this period. It also had over 20,000 video lottery terminals in place across the country. The aim is to have 25,000 of these terminals in place by the end of 2019. 

Sports betting revenue fell 5.2% to $212m, with online betting remaining flat. The company’s retail self-service betting terminals now make up 18.5% of sports betting turnover. 

The Greek government sold its 33% stake in OPAP in 2013 to Emma Delta for about $730m. The remaining shares in the company are owned by other free-float investors.