Monday October 14,2013 :  GREEK GAMBLING: OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW
 
New owner Emma Delta rings the changes at Board level.
 
The new owners of the Greek online and land gambling monopoly OPAP, the Emma Delta consortium, took up the reins Friday as former directors resigned to make way for a new Board.
 
The new board includes three Greeks and eight foreigners.
 
Emma Delta is controlled by Czech investor Jiri Smejc and Greek businessman George Melissanidis, and paid the Greek state Euros 622 million for a 33 percent stake in OPAP. The fund will pay an additional Euros 3 million a year for the next 10 years, according to a Reuters news agency report.
 
On concluding the purchase Friday, the fund replaced 10 members out of the eleven in OPAP's board and appointed Czech banker Kamil Ziegler (51) as new chairman and chief executive officer.
 
"During a time of transition for the domestic economy, we are committed to investing in the company and in Greece over the long term," Ziegler said.
 
Ziegler has experience in the gambling industry; he led the former Czech betting monopoly Sazka after it was sold to a joint venture between PPF, the investment group owned by the richest Czech Petr Kellner, and Czech investment group KKCG in 2011
 
He has also served as Chairman and CEO of the state-owned bank Konsolidacní Banka and of Raiffeisenbank Praha. Mr Ziegler has also been an Executive Finance Director at PPF Group.
 
Michal Houst, who has spearheaded Emma Delta's takeover of OPAP, will oversee the group's finances, the consortium said. In addition to being a director, he has considerable experience in successful restructuring projects at Nomos Bank in Russia and has worked as a banking and financial analyst at PPF in the Czech Republic and Russia.
 
The controversial Greek monopoly is one of Europe's biggest listed betting firms, with gross gaming revenues of Euros 1.3 billion last year. Its monopoly in sports betting and in lotteries will last until 2020 and 2030 respectively, and there are plans to pursue an aggressive expansion plan into the video lotto and online betting sectors.
 
"We are committed to the long-term growth of the group, which we will pursue by creating value throughout the enterprise and making OPAP more cost efficient," Smejc said in a statement.
 
Other investors in Emma Delta include Czech-based KKCG, Italy's Lottomatica, Greek businessman Christos Copelouzos, Russia's ICT Group and Slovakia's J&T Finance.
 
Since August 12, when the sell-off deal was signed as part of Greece's privatisation drive to address national economic problems, the OPAP stock has grown by 50 percent, exceeding Euro 9 on Monday for the first time since 2010. Emma Delta bought each share at 6.50 euros not including the dividend, according to the newspaper Ekathimerini.com.