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Greece – Greek government close to approving online gaming, new casino licences and relocation

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The Greek government is getting closer to approving a new gaming bill that will allow the introduction of online gaming, new land-based casino licences and the relocation of one of the country’s leading casino licences.

The Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos has confirmed that not one but two gaming bills were have been sent to parliament.

The proposals for new laws have come on the back of the need to renegotiate the controversial video lottery terminal (VLT) contract between the Greek state and OPAP. However the debate on the former state-owned gaming operator’s contract extension has brought with it a far reaching plan to re-energise Greece’s entire gambling market and generate much needed tax.

Parliament is now expected to pass changes concerning the contract between the state and OPAP as regards video lottery terminals (VLTs) and the relocation of the Parnitha casino bringing it closer to Athens, as well as launching a tender process for new casino licences on Crete and Myconos and the licensing process for online gaming services.

The amendment in the draft bill for the relocation of the Regency Casino on Mont Parnes to the northern suburbs has been greeted with support. It has been approved in principle by the finance committee. Governing coalition parties SYRIZA and ANEL have voted in favour of the relocation, New Democracy, the Communist party and Golden Dawn voted against, while the Democratic Coalition, Potami and the Centrists’ Union reserved their decision for the debate at the Parliament’s plenum.

Mr. Tsakalotos said: “As you can understand, we tried to specify the location of the casino to avoid overlapping activities. Essentially, we are moving the casino relatively far from Loutraki and Hellinikon. Excluding other options, we are sending it to the north. By excluding these areas, the casino will not come in the city center and next to residential areas, which are totally excluded. At the same time, the casinos of Helliniko and Loutraki will be are minimally affected, protecting the investments there,” he pointed out.

At the centre of the debate is taxation with the Greek government recognising that government has realized that tax rates over 22 per cent deter major investment, whilst threatening the sustainability of existing casinos.

Greek casinos peaked in 2008 turnover reached €744.5m. GGR fell by over 60 per cent over the next five years and has continued to fall since leaving once market leading casinos such as Loutraki, once one of the top earning casinos in Europe, close to bankruptcy.

The plan is to make a new casino licence at Elliniko, the old Athens airport, more attractive to investors.

There have also been discussion to cancel licences from casinos that are losing money and don’t attract investment.

In other news, Club Hotel Loutraki has seen a court order that its creditors accept a 40 per cent reduction in monies owed and a 15-year repayment plan implemented for the remaining debt.

The decision has been made by the First Instance Court of Corinth, following the casino mounting up debts believed to be nearly €140m, owed to the state and the state social security fund, the IKA,. The deal places Casino Loutraki under the terms of Article 106 of the Greek Bankruptcy Law.

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