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Greece – OPAP to take Greek government to court over new gaming tax

By - 23 November 2015

Greek gambling operator OPAP is considering taking legal action against the Greek government if it introduces a new gambling tax that OPAP believes will render any future VLT sector unworkable.

OPAP has slammed the potential gambling tax, agreed in principal by the country’s government and its international creditors, as counterproductive saying it would actually damage the government’s revenue from gaming tax.

Most importantly OPAP has said the new tax would make the future VLT sector unprofitable. OPAP has already paid €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 had initially planned to roll out its VLTs in June this year but put the brakes on once government introduced some 11th hour changes that would affect the sustainability of the business model. These included lower jackpots, daily loss limits and limits on length of play.

The new tax, announced by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos would see a tax of €0.05 imposed on OPAP’s lotteries and sports betting in an attempt to raise €300 to €400m a year for the government.
Czech businessman Jiri Smejc, who owns Emma Capital a major investor in OPAP, said to Reuters: “We believe it is just a matter of time. They badly need the revenue. We have discussed with the government that in these upcoming weeks, if it will not be solved, we will need to file some lawsuit,” he said. “We have clear promises they will change [the regulation] but still nothing has happened. That is why we froze the project, because for us it does not make sense economically now to do it.”

Last year OPAP paid over 500m in taxes to the government. This was generated by paying 30 per cent of its revenues along with a corporation tax.

Odysseas Christoforou, General Manager of Corporate Communication for OPAP, said adding even more tax now was discriminatory against OPAP.

“We have informed the government that such a move would be counter-efficient. It would not lead to the expected fiscal revenue and would severely hit our agent network as it would lead to a reduction of gaming in the country. Such a decline in activity will negatively affect state revenues,” Mr. Christoforou explained. “Beyond the financial consequences of imposing such a measure, legal issues were also raised, among them a discriminatory treatment against our company and our network of agents.”

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