After many months in the works, the Greek authorities announced a new casino license regulation in September 2018. Since then, there has been a lot of interest in these licenses by foreign operators, particularly for the $8bn land-based casino to be based in Hellinikon.
The new regulations
Greece has had its fair share of economic troubles in the last decade, but it looks like the country is finally coming out on the other side of these woes. While gambling revenues nosedived after its extensive debt crisis, they have been improving steadily year on year.
There had been a state monopoly in place in the country for the gambling sector. Greece had received numerous warnings from the European Commission about this monopoly, which ultimately was the catalyst for these new changes to the sector.
Some gambling operators received licenses in 2011 from the government, which made a U-turn shortly after.
In more recent times, interim licenses were issued to 24 worldwide operators. With the illegal gambling sector seeing revenues of about $5bn (£3.8bn) annually, the government is clearly missing out on a lot of potential revenue, which is why it has now ended the state monopoly in the sector.
The Greek ministry of finance was tasked with the creation of new regulations. Holders of interim licenses can now apply for a full one. However, there has been criticism regarding the size of the licensing fees.
The process to obtain a full license will take about two months. The cost of a license is $5.8m (£4.4m) and it only covers sports betting offerings. If an operator wishes to provide other game types, this will set them back another $1.7m (£1.3m). The licenses will have a lifespan of five years and must be renewed a year or more in advance of expiry.
Each application requires a deposit of $580,000 (£442,000) and applicants need to show that they have a gambling license somewhere in Europe, as well as providing their financial results to the regulators for their last three years in operation.
Those operators who are currently on the blacklist of operators in Greece can still receive a license.
Gambling winnings will be subject to a variable tax, which will be withheld on behalf of the government by the operators themselves.
These funds will subsequently be sent to the state’s taxation authority. No variable tax will be levied on winnings of lower than $116. There is a 15% tax on winnings of $116 to $580, and a 20% tax for any winnings greater than $580.
There have been no clear indications given as to what type of tax rate the operators themselves will face, with a 35% rate being bandied about as of late.
Large interest in these licenses
It is said that the behemoths of the casino sector are very interested in the Hellinikon casino project. This is a land-based casino that would require an investment in the region of $8bn.
It will be the first casino resort to be built in Greece, which is a massive destination for tourists each year. The Greek gambling sector is going from strength to strength thanks to the opening up of online gambling licenses.
The bidding process for the Hellinikon casino, to be built just outside the capital, will begin in October and it is set to be a competitive bidding war. Some of those that have already expressed interest include the world-renowned Caesars Entertainment, Groupe Lucien Barrière and some of the bigger Native American tribes.
There is talk that a couple of casino operators could join forces and submit a joint bid, working together to achieve a common goal. A lot of planning is already going into the project by these bidders to ensure they have the best chance of success.
This project has been planned for some time now, but has undergone numerous delays. It will be the first integrated casino resort in Europe, which makes it a valuable proposition.
In February 2018 the casino resort was given the go-ahead by the Council of State. It will be located on the former site of Hellinikon International Airport outside Athens.
Construction work is expected to commence at the beginning of 2019, and as many as 10,000 people are likely to be employed during the construction period. The license for this casino will be for 30 years in length and could lead to an estimated 70,000 jobs both directly and indirectly in the initial five years of operation.
Greece is already an extremely popular destination for tourists because of its beautiful islands and this project will also make it a premium destination for gambling in Europe.