Greek Online Revenues On Track To Exceed £700m In 2021

December 21, 2021
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Greece's newly licensed online market buoyed up the whole country's gambling industry in 2021, which grew fractionally year-on-year despite a nationwide lockdown that shuttered the land-based sector until May.

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Greece's newly licensed online market buoyed up the whole country's gambling industry in 2021, which grew fractionally year-on-year despite a nationwide lockdown that shuttered the land-based sector until May.

Greek gamblers left a little more than €1.54bn behind in the online businesses, betting shops and lottery parlours of Greece from January to October this year, 1 percent more than in the same period a year before, despite several months of lockdown.

Their drop, in terms of money staked at the country's nine casinos, also held up with €659m played in those properties versus €638m in the same period last year.

As a result, state revenues from gaming taxes in the first ten months of 2021 surpassed the total state revenues from gambling in the entirety of 2020.

For the ten months of 2021, the tax take for the state from gambling tax, which amounts to 35 percent of gross gaming revenue (GGR) for online operators, was €715m — easily exceeding the total of €628.87m in taxes paid during the whole of 2020.

The online sector, which saw permanent licensing finally introduced this summer, fared predictably well in a European Football Championship year and shrugged off high tax rates and a €2 maximum stake for online casinos, a restriction which persists despite industry lobbying efforts.

The group of 15 licensed online operators, which became 16 when PokerStars was added this autumn, clocked a total GGR of €598.9m in January to October.

That number was 35 percent up from the same period a year before when it earned €444.3m, amounting to €10m or 2 percent more than the GGR from the online sector as a whole throughout 2020.

Greek Chart Dec 21

The stunning growth rate has fuelled speculation of what will happen next and rumours of new licence applications underway from the UK and elsewhere.

"Everyone is talking about when revenues will hit €1bn," one Athens-based consultant told VIXIO GamblingCompliance, "but that's not going to be an easy road."

Many observers say the €2 casino stake limit will remain beyond the powers of the Hellenic Gaming Commission to amend and will require a legislative amendment by the Ministry of Finance, a change to which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is understood to be personally opposed.

Added to the expense of subsidising new player winnings taxes, the marketing costs of participating in the hot Greek online market also remain stubbornly high.

OPAP-owned Stoiximan has saturated the advertising market along with Novibet, sponsors of popular Greek NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Bwin has also pushed forward with a high-profile campaign focused strongly on responsible gambling messaging.

Still, during the first ten months of 2021, the online industry was able to pay €210m of taxes to the state in addition to their hefty multi-million euro licensing fees.

For formerly state-owned gambling behemoth OPAP, 2021 was a decidedly mixed bag, with revenue declines at its land-based shops and on horseracing, but much stronger performances from its pure lottery products and the Stoximan online acquisition, which became fully integrated into their operations on December 1, 2020.

The Greek Lottery, operated by OPAP, saw gross revenues in the ten-month period leap to €66.7m from €42.4m in the corresponding period of 2021, an increase of 57 percent, but other more significant offline sales, including video lottery terminals (VLTs), were less robust with an 18 percent slump in GGR across the board.

In the first ten months of 2021, gross profits clocked in at €721.4m, down from €882m in the same period a year before, as OPAP stores remained closed from the beginning of the year until April 12 and PLAY VLT halls could not resume their operations until May 24.

Also shuttered until May was horseracing activity at Markopoulo Park, which resumed on May 17, 2021. As a result, Hellenic Horse Racing's GGR dipped by 18 percent in the ten months to €4.6m from €5.6m during the same period of 2020.

Land-based casinos

Greece's casinos resumed their operations after lockdown in May and their players made bets of €659.9m in the first ten months of 2021, up 3 percent from the €638.8m they staked in the same period a year before, but the summer — with forest fires in central Greece — and the closing weeks of this year have proved challenging.

At the end of November, it became a requirement for casino patrons to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination (and a booster if over 60 year of age), where previously a negative COVID test had been sufficient.

Although vaccination rates are high on the Greek islands and in Athens, much of Northern Greece has adult vaccination rates of little higher than 50 percent, which is acting as an ongoing drag on the casino sector, where many properties are now open for just a few hours each day.

"You wouldn't rush to Greece at the moment to be in the casino business," said one local casino executive, who noted that the indebted smaller properties looking to quit the market are struggling to find interest from buyers even at knock-down prices.

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