Posted 1/23/11: 50 licenses envisaged, says official
The Reuters news agency reports that the Greek government is pressing ahead with its plan to open up and license the online gambling sector in an initiative that will see the award of 50 licenses and implementation before the end of this (2011) year.
There are also plans to allow thousands of low-stake videolotto (VLT) gaming machines by the end of the year, an unnamed senior government official told Reuters anonymously this week.
There has been no official reaction from the government yet.
Reuters notes that opening up internet gaming will be a major step for the debt-ridden country, which hopes to get hundreds of millions of euros in extra revenues. The move will also put it back in line with EU regulations and allow it to stop paying hefty fines.
"The bill is expected to be voted within the first quarter of the year," the official, who has direct knowledge of the government plans, said. "Our aim is to tender the licenses by the end of the year."
He said that Greece aims to reap over Euro 700 million ($949 million) from new gaming licenses and royalties this year as part of the EU/IMF bailout plan that saved it from bankruptcy last year. It has earmarked another Euro 625 million for 2012.
The country had struggled to crack down on unlicenced gambling, estimated at about Euro 4 billion a year, since it imposed a blanket ban on gaming machines in 2002. Betting monopoly OPAP, in which the state has a significant stake, and slot machines in casinos were excluded from the ban.
The official did not say what the duration of the new betting licences or the payout would be. Referring to the VLTs, the source added that there would be a limit on wagers.