The head of the Greek gambling regulator wants to tempt suppliers to relocate from Malta and Gibraltar, and has said that he expects to collect €1bn in gambling taxes for the state budget in 2022.
Dimitris Dzanatos, who is president of the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC), announced in a speech on Thursday (December 8) that he plans to create an online gambling ecosystem in Greece, is examining plans to extend existing casino licences to luxury hotels and is working to ensure the viability of OPAP’s betting agencies, many of which he said are struggling to survive.
Greece expects to allow three more online operators to enter the market in the near future, adding to the existing 15 licence holders. Probet from Bulgaria and Elladix (a subsidiary of Globalix) are expected to be licensed in December and Triton will be added in January.
According to HGC sources, the gross gaming revenue of online games in the first nine months of 2022 amounted to €540m, compared with €550m in 2021, while the total turnover in online games over the nine months exceeded €14bn, compared with €12bn in 2021.
Dzanatos said he is hoping to tempt game supplies to establish offices in Greece. Companies that are part of the “production ecosystem of software” for gambling currently based in Malta and Gibraltar, if they are given incentives, might move their headquarters to Greece, he said.
Apart from the significant workforce they will employ, they could create a new healthy and export industry, he said.
"First we need to find out what these companies want in order to decide to come to Greece and then see what we can offer them. We are sending a questionnaire with relevant questions and we will proceed accordingly," said Dzanatos.
On the often fraught subject of land-based casinos in Greece, the chief regulator confirmed he was considering allowing existing casinos to expand into luxury hotels in areas where there are no other casinos.
He offered a surprisingly barbed defense of his plan, saying: “I am not an employee of the providers I control and supervise, I am their supervisor … who serves the interests of the state. As part of my role I can study, consult and suggest whatever I want.”
Sources say he was responding to complaints made by the owners of two major casinos in Athens, which have protested to minister Adonis Georgiadis about the proposal.
“I never said I want to put more casinos in Attica [the region of Greece that contains Athens], but why not in Kalamata if Costa Navarino and one of the licensed casinos are interested, or in Halkidiki? Moreover, this proposal is still being studied,” Dzanatos said.
Strengthening and restructuring Greece’s turbulent casino market is in the commission's plans, he said. An agreement has been reached to transfer loans taken out by three casinos owned by Konstantinos Piladakis from Intrum to a new investor, Glafka Capital.
Dzanatos said he now expects there will be a long period of negotiations to discuss debts owed to the state and employees. The Loutraki casino is also in this phase, awaiting the completion of its recovery process in the next two months, he said.
In March, he will have prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Finance a package of proposals to strengthen the operation of the country's casinos, he said, noting that the long-awaited relocation of the Mont Parnes Casino is awaiting a presidential decree.
On the subject of the major Hellenikon casino development on the site of a former airport on the outskirts of Athens, Dzanatos said that Hard Rock has been approved as a 51 percent shareholder in the venture, replacing the withdrawing Mohegan Sun.
The HGC is focused on supervising the project, Dzanatos said, with the formation of a technical committee the next stage in what is expected to still be three more years of construction.
Dzanatos also pledged to find some way to support the around 4,000 OPAP retail venues that have been struggling as players migrate to the internet — a process accelerated by the global pandemic.
It is hoped that the addition of Greece to the cross-continental Eurojackpot lottery draw will help boost revenue in the ailing shops.
The head regulator said he also wants to quadruple the number of staff employed at the commission. Its workforce has shrunk from 170 in 2014 to just 30 today, he said.
"Our goal is to reach 120 staff with a salary cost of €4.5m," he said.