Greece – OPAP to sue Greek government for over €1bnBy Phil - 2 December 2015
Greek gaming giant OPAP has confirmed that it will now take legal action against the Greek government for moving the goal posts on its agreed VLT deal.
The rollout of Greek operator OPAP’s first wave of VLTs had been delayed following new stipulations from the Hellenic Gaming Commission on how the machines must work introduced on June 12, which included lower jackpot levels, daily loss limits and length of play time allowed. OPAP said since then it has attempted to ‘arrive at a reasonable and balanced’ with the government but that no changes have been made.
OPAP said it will now sue for more than €1bn in damages following the government rolling out a series of 11th hour regulatory changes creating ‘unprecedented restrictions.’
The company has filed a request for arbitration with the London Court of International Arbitration.
OPAP said there had been a ‘radical change of circumstances in the project’s implementation.’
“The existing regulatory framework now contains a number of unprecedented restrictions, which defy international best practices of responsible gaming and render OPAP’s VLT business no longer economically viable,” it added. “OPAP assures its investors, its partners and its employees that it remains absolutely focused on its investments and shall continue to take all appropriate actions to arrive at a reasonable and balanced legal framework that secures public interest and public revenues and, at the same time, restores OPAP’s rights and the economic viability of OPAP’s business as guaranteed under OPAP’s exclusive licence agreements with the Hellenic Republic.”
OPAP has already invested €560m to build its first 50 VLT halls. The loss of the future VLT sector would wipe off €300m from the government’s tax in 2016.
OPAP added: “The new regulation, decided by the Gaming Commission only a few days prior to the scheduled launch of the VLTs, and without prior consultation with OPAP, contains a number of unprecedented restrictions, which defy international best practices of responsible gaming, render the project no longer economically viable and contain technical requirements that make timely implementation impossible.
The government wanted the new VLT sector to generate €38.7m in tax revenue in 2015 and €225m in 2016.
The new stipulations limited daily loss limit to €80 a player and restrict the amount of time people can play to 10 hours a week and 32 hours a month. Maximum jackpots have been reduced to €20,000 from the previous €100,000.
OPAP wanted to have 16,000 VLTs in operation in its own Play branded gaming halls by the end of 2015 with a further 19,000 available to sub-contracted operators.
OPAP has also expressed its concern to the Greek Finance Minister over what it says is a violation of shareholders’ and agents’ rights both regarding Internet betting and the introduction of a tax of €0.05 per bet.
OPAP said of the new tax: “It constitutes discriminatory handling of the company at its expense and to the benefit of other suppliers of games of chance in Greece.”