Greece has undergone a lot of struggles in recent years. The country is now heavily reliant on its gambling and tourism industries to help with its economic issues. It was recently announced that Greece is granting new casino licenses.
Greek economic woes
While Greece has traditionally been recognized as a high-income country, it has experienced some significant issues since the Great Recession. At the close of 2009, the government revised its estimated deficit from 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 12.7%.
At the beginning of 2010, the true extent of the country’s borrowing was revealed. The actuals debt levels of Greece and Italy had been hidden by intricate financial products. Effectively, these countries were given cash in advance in return for future repayments and these dealing were more or less kept off the books.
Because they had been called swaps, they were not officially categorized as debt. As a result, the Greek government continually spent beyond its means while on the surface appearing to meet the European Union’s deficit-to-GDP requirements.
By May 2011, the deficit in Greece was around the 13.6% mark, which was behind only Iceland in the world rankings for the worst deficits compared to GDP. This led to a widespread lack of confidence in Greece’s ability to repay its debts. To avoid a default, the IMF and countries in the Eurozone put together an emergency package that gave Greece $51bn (£40bn) worth of loans, which eventually became $124.5bn (£98bn) worth of loans.
In return, Greece implemented debilitating austerity programs to reign in its deficit. By 2011, it was clear that another bailout was needed, this time about $173bn (£136bn).
Greece gradually managed to gain some control over the situation. The country had a budget surplus in 2013 and was allowed to return to the global bond market in 2014. Unemployment is still high in the country and it is heavily reliant on tourism and the gambling sector. Around 20% of the country’s economic activity revolves around tourism.
Gambling in Greece
The gambling sector in Greece has changed drastically in recent years. While casinos and other gambling establishments are completely regulated and licensed in the country, there is still a state monopoly in place under OPAP.
This has caused a lot of controversy over the years, and the EU Commission has ruled that this state monopoly violates EU laws. The Greek government issued licenses for online gambling operators in 2011 before quickly reversing this decision.
There have been some positive moves in recent times. While the monopoly of OPAP continues, measures have been introduced to allow 24 international operators to offer their services in the country once the government licenses them.
The Gambling Commission estimates that Greek residents wagered more than $5bn (£4bn) on illegal platforms in 2014, which is why the country is becoming more open to opening up the market.
The gambling sector revenues are recovering somewhat in Greece because people have more disposable income. At the start of the crisis in 2009, gambling revenues were $10bn (£7.9bn); that feel to $6.67bn (£5.25bn) in 2014. As the economy improves, revenues are only going to increase.
New casino licenses issued
The Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) is in charge of issuing casino licenses. The HGC is now accepting proposals from potential investors for new casino licenses in the area of Elliniko, south of Athens.
After a screening process, the HGC will choose grantees for these licenses. The deadline for applications is September 10, and it is hoped that a world-class integrated casino resort will be developed in the area. This mission “reflects the collective vision and commitment to collaborate on the further development and implementation of a sustainable tourism destination.”
Greece wants to open up the gambling sector to outsiders because such a resort would have wide-ranging benefits for Athens and Greece as a whole. It would provide jobs and economic prosperity for locals and visitors alike, as well as increasing the attraction of Greece as a tourist destination.