The Greek ConundrumBy Lewis - 5 August 2020
Greece has long been a market with unclear regulatory status, but permanent online licenses were finally made available to operators in 2020. Thirteen operators already active in the country under a temporary agreement applied before the deadline in April. But with the new licensing system, new technical regulations were also introduced, including online casino stake limits of €2, a maximum online jackpot of €5,000 per spin, a ban on advertising and higher licensing fees. How attractive and rewarding will the new market be for suppliers and operators when the new conditions enter into force?
G3 discusses these pertinent questions with Fintan Costello, Managing Director at BonusFinder.com, and Christos Zoulianitis, Senior Account Manager at Playson.
Online casino currently makes up around 30 percent of the Greek online market, how do you think the new regulations will impact the popularity of the vertical and how will the market change?
Fintan Costello (FC): These kinds of restrictions only allow for illegal operators to take a firmer foothold and establish a stronger black market where players are not protected. Players will deposit funds on sites that offer less restrictive measures and attractive rewards and jackpots, and there is strong evidence of this taking place in other countries such as Sweden where ‘channelisation’ is failing for these reasons. Research that we conducted on the market showed that a third of Swedish players are searching online for ‘unlicensed casino’ offerings.
As a result of new regulations, licensees will struggle to compete with black market operators and maintain healthy player numbers. For us as an affiliate, the new regulations will introduce a licensing system which we support, and which has been proven to work in markets such as Romania and several US states. However, the advertising ban for RNG games will make it extremely difficult for the affiliate sector to operate there.
Christos Zoulianitis (CZ): The online casino market is already experiencing strong growth and we are expecting that to continue, even after the new regulations coming into force. Greece has a solid land-based market, but we are seeing a trend of players shifting to the online space, preferring the convenience of spinning online rather than heading to betting shops and casinos. Although sports betting is the most popular form of gambling, the casino’s popularity will rise as more players become accustomed to this fun way of enjoying slots on their desktop and mobile devices.
With a €2 stake limit for RNG markets how will suppliers adjust to the limit and will we see live casino, where the limit does not apply, become more popular?
CZ: We are likely to see a bottleneck effect, but the restrictions will not stop people from playing slots. It is not just the stakes that will be restricted either, as the maximum prize per spin will be limited to €5,000 which is quite low, while a significant ban on advertising will prove challenging for operators. This will place a greater importance on the use of engagement tools, such as jackpots and network tournaments, to make the gaming experience as appealing to players as possible. At Playson, we have an array of engagement tools and continue to sharpen the features to ensure they are suitable for operators in regulated markets, such as Greece.
FC: The industry will have to accept the challenge they are faced with and will innovative, as it so often has in other markets, when it comes to its product offering. We could perhaps see promotional tools such as leaderboards and tournaments become more popular to help retain players. Elsewhere in Europe we have already started seeing a shift towards lower stakes games that still offer great excitement and these will fit well into the Greek marketplace.
In May, the formerly state-owned operator OPAP launched its online casino for the first time, creating a sizeable competitor to the existing offering. What impact do you think OPAP’s recent launch will have on the market?
FC: OPAP has a huge advantage as it is one of Greece’s strongest and most established brands and will be an important player in online casino. What we have seen in other regulated markets is that many players choose to stick with the brand they know and trust and that will be the case in Greece to a certain extent. However, OPAP will face stiff competition from more agile brands who have the advantage of experience in several regulated jurisdictions.
CZ: OPAP are a huge name here in Greece and the launch of their online casino will have a very big impact. They have got such a large player base already and will be in a strong position to attract new customers given their reputation. Our games are already live with OPAP’s new online casino and the initial results have been very positive. It is great to have Playson associated with the biggest operator in the market and we will continue to work with them by delivering new slots, as well as customer support over the coming months.
Thirteen operators have still chosen to apply for a licence in the market, despite the high licensing fees and restrictions, what is the appeal and opportunities of the Greek market?
CZ: The sheer size of the market is undoubtedly a key factor in what makes Greece attractive for operators and suppliers. Turnover totalled a whopping €16bn in 2019, according to the Greek government. That is an increase of 14.7 per cent on the previous year, which shows there is a real opportunity for growth in the market. For Playson, we have strong ambitions to have a presence across all major markets across Europe and it is important to have our games available to play in Greece. It will be an important market for us going forward and we are looking to expand our operator network in the region.
FC: The Greek market is lucrative with an educated audience who enjoy casino. It has also seen steady growth in the last few years with online gambling GGR tripling between 2015 and 2019 to €437m and casino games driving a lot of the growth, according to data from the Hellenic Gaming Commission of Greece. The country also has an established land-based market with many enjoying a flutter as an entertaining pastime and these players offer great online conversion potential. If operators embrace the challenge and adapt to the new market, Greece could become a significant market for many operators and suppliers despite the tough restrictions.