ATHENS: After Greece got into financial trouble, one of the stipulations made by the Eurozone in order to secure vital bailout funds was that the country undertakes sweeping reforms of its gambling industry. While many of the reforms have already had a positive impact, moves are afoot to potentially boost the industry further by making the country an even more attractive place for international players to invest.
One of the proposals currently being considered by the Syriza government in a new gambling bill is adjusting the level of taxes placed on both table games and slot machines. By introducing a mixed tax system, it is believed that gross gaming “turnover tax” could be reduced from its current high rate of between 30-37% to just 25% or less.
Another proposed plan to boost Greece’s gambling industry includes the building of more high-quality casinos to complement the eight that already exist on the mainland, as well as the islands of Rhodes, Syros and Corfu. This in turn will help increase the number of tourists visiting the popular southeastern European country, which is already estimated to reach around 30 million people by 2018.
One of the proposed locations of a new casino is the site of the now closed Ellinikon International Airport, which was Greece’s main international airport for sixty years until it was replaced by the Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” in 2001. In addition, there are also plans to relocate the Parnitha casino to a new area more readily accessible by tourists, as well as those locals wanting to gamble.
The Syriza government is hoping that by implementing these changes, and revamping the gambling industry’s tax rates, then Greece will increase its credibility amongst foreign investors and their willingness to invest in the country’s gambling sector.
Greece’s gambling industry used to be a monopoly run by a state-owned company called OPAP, until in 2013 the government sold its 33% stake in the business for €622 million. OPAP has continued to be Europe’s 4th largest betting firm, although the government has busily been been enacting its vision of a more liberal gambling sector by the year 2020, with the Finance Ministry earlier this year proposing that the number of video lottery machines operated by the firm throughout the country be reduced by almost 30% to 25,000.