In early 2002, the Greek authorities banned all forms of online gambling, later in 2011 issuing temporary licenses. After ten years of domination by a state-run monopoly, the Hellenic Gaming Commission has moved to issue permanent licenses again and develop the country’s gambling industry.
On 5 July 2021, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) issued 15 online gambling licenses, the first permanent licenses to be issued since a 2002 law banned online gambling. This article covers the development of the Greek online gambling industry and details current regulations and requirements for licensees.
In 2002, the Greek government banned all forms of online gambling to combat organized crime, considering that a total ban was simpler and more effective than implementing and enforcing more comprehensive regulations.
The ban was so severe that even online video games were banned, and this has raised concerns among the public and the European Commission, which sent Greece to the European Court of Justice in 2005.
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Following the 2008 economic crisis, Greek authorities began to take advantage of gambling revenues. A new law passed in 2011 repealed the 2002 law and allowed the issuance of temporary licenses for online gambling and sports betting operators.
However, many of the operators who entered the market left it only a year later, when it became clear that “legalization” was tantamount to a state monopoly. OPAP, the state-owned lottery and betting organization, dominated the market and provided government revenue at a time of great need – especially when 33% of the property was sold in 2013 for more than € 650 million.
Domestic and international operators have launched a number of lawsuits alleging unfair practices that have violated EU standards – especially those on freedom of service. In 2013, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the monopoly was illegal. However, a Greek court has defended the OPAP monopoly, arguing that it is a necessary measure to combat gambling-related criminal activity while maintaining the agreement in accordance with EU law.
Between 2013 and 2016, through the government’s massive involvement in the gambling industry, they generated only about 60,000 euros in tax revenue. Thus, in 2016 the government announced plans to develop a more effective regulatory framework.
In September 2020, the Greek Gaming Commission (HGC) invited potential online gambling operators to apply for a license in accordance with their new regulations. The Commission offers two types of licenses: one for online betting and one for all other iGaming activities.
The rules are similar to those in the UK, including limits that some might consider restrictive: slots are subject to a maximum bet of EUR 2, a minimum spin of 3 seconds, and a jackpot limit of EUR 50,000.
Advertising policies are also strictly regulated. Thus, slots can only be legally promoted on the same website, while other gambling companies can only cooperate with registered affiliates. The registration is done by HGC and costs 1,000 euros.
On 12 October 2020, the Commission announced that it would request a “letter of guarantee” from the applicant for an online gambling license. In January 2021, HGC facilitated the process for all licensed providers and affiliates, allowing them to submit the initial application online, provided they subsequently will submit physical documents.
On July 5, 2021, HGC announced that it had issued 15 online gambling licenses, the first permanent licenses issued since the 2002 general ban.
Critics of the new gambling legislation have repeatedly emphasized that the legislation is likely to prevent many foreign operators from launching a gambling business in Greece, rather than encouraging them to enter the market.
Licensing fees and financial requirements:
License fee: €3 million for online betting, €2 million for other online games
Application fee: €10,000
Required bank guarantee: €100,000
Required minimum capital: €200,000
License duration: 7 years
Like many other European markets, Greece was poised for strong growth. In 2018, the online sector reached revenues of 391 million euros, an increase of 37% compared to 2017. The increase was correlated not only with the increase in bets that comes with the World Cup but also with the lifting of certain banking restrictions.
The Greek government received 137 million euros in taxes, 37.4 million euros more than in the previous year. In 2019, the market has grown again, as expected, and experts anticipate further growth in the future.
Initially, 2020 started as another fruitful year, but the sports betting market has fallen sharply due to the pandemic. In the spring, when many sporting events were canceled or postponed, revenues fell by 40% from the previous year.
However, in the wider iGaming industry, the outlook is brighter. While sports betting was in free fall, online casinos began to flourish. Smaller brands that focus on poker and other forms of gambling have thrived, many of them doubling or even tripling their revenues.
Overall, not even the coronavirus pandemic has prevented the growth of the online gambling industry. According to official HGC statistics, GGR online gambling reached 540 million euros in 2020, up from 437 million euros in 2019. Given the 35% tax rate on gross online gambling revenue, it is in the government’s interest to create an environment in which industry can flourish.
There is always a surge of excitement whenever a market re-regulates. Players in newly re-regulated markets are often grateful for the protections that come with gambling on sanctioned sites, and those who have previously resorted to black market casinos will return to gambling on licensed ones. Recently opened markets are widely regarded as valuable opportunities to start or expand an online gambling business.
Contact us to find out how we can help your business enter the Greek market.
Szilaghi Consulting has worked in the gambling business for over 17 years. We can assist new clients with the incorporation of gaming companies, fiscal registration, and licensing matters. To draw on our experience and to benefit from our advice, contact us today to find out more.
How can Szilaghi Consulting help you start your online gambling business?
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