Greek authorities announced several months ago that they were working on new regulations for casino licenses and they have been eagerly anticipated ever since. Now details of these regulations have been released for those interested in applying for licenses.
Situation in Greece
Greece has gone through significant economic crises over the past decade. The country had one of the worst deficits in the world in 2011, behind only Iceland with a deficit reaching 13.6% of its GDP.
Investors around the world lost confidence that Greece could pay back its significant debt. To make sure that the country wouldn’t default, an emergency package was created by the Eurozone countries and the IMF, providing almost $125bn (£96bn) worth of loans.
While Greece has started to recover from these troubles in recent years, unemployment is still high, and the economy is very dependent on tourism.
Greece has had a state monopoly on gambling for many years. The EU Commission has issued several warnings alleging that the country is breaking various EU laws by maintaining this monopoly.
The government issued licenses in 2011 for online gambling operators, but officials changed their minds soon afterward. There was another about-face recently and interim licenses were issued, allowing 24 global operators to cater to Greek residents once licenses were given.
The figures for illegal gambling in the country are continually growing, with estimates placing the figure at close to $5bn (£3.8bn), which is a lot of money that the country is missing out on. Therefore, there has been a push to end the state monopoly.
Greek residents also have more disposable income than they did some years ago because the economy is improving gradually.
New online gambling regulations
These new regulations have been a long time coming, but the authorities have finally released them, and they have received mixed reviews so far.
The Greek Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of gambling, issued the regulations. Those who have been operating with interim licenses since 2011 can now apply for full licenses.
Significant costs are associated with these licenses, so it is expected that not every one of the 24 operators will go for the full license. The application process to obtain a license and it will take up to two months for approval.
A fee of $4.6m (£3.5m) will be charged for a license, which will be only for online sports betting. An operator that wants to offer other types of games will have to pay an additional $1.3m.
A license will be in effect for five years. An operator that wants to renew will need to do so at least a year in advance of the expiration date.
A deposit of $580,000 (£446,000) is required with the application, and the applicant has to prove that it is licensed in a country within the European Union. Finally, the operator will have to submit financial results for the past three years.
Operators who were on the Greek authorities’ blacklist in the previous year cannot apply for a license. GVC Holdings is one of the parties currently on the blacklist because of a back tax obligation that is in the process of being rectified.
A new variable tax will be imposed on all winnings. Operators will be required to withhold this amount from the players’ winnings and will have to send the money to the state taxation authority.
There won’t be any withholding on winnings of less than $116 (£89). Those who win between $116 (£89) and $580 (£446) will have to pay a tax of 15% and those who win more than $580 (£446) will pay a 20% tax.
There was no indication as to what level of taxes the operators will be facing. In the original plan, the government suggested a 35% tax on gambling operators’ revenues.