BUSINESS

Public coffers swell thanks to legalized gambling via VLTs

VANGELIS MANDRAVELIS

TAGS: Finance, Business

The illegal turnover of offline gambling is in the process of turning legal. Last year alone gaming giant OPAP’s turnover from games of chance on video lotto terminals (VLTs) came to 1 billion euros. This turnover has not come about through new players discovering slot machines but rather from the legalization of the existing illegal market.

OPAP currently operates around 10,000 VLTs and after the amendment of its contract it is expected to increase this figure to some 25,000. However, the number of illegal machines in Greece is estimated at more than 100,000, according to data released by the Financial Police, who confiscate dozens of VLTs from well-hidden spots in cafeterias, internet cafes and other venues every day.

Experts estimate that more than three-quarters of the official growth of VLT turnover is thanks to the “legalization” of illegal gambling. This certainly brings considerable revenues into state coffers: Last year the gaming sector contributed gross gaming revenue (GGR) taxes of 662 million euros, or some 35 million euros more than in 2016.

That tax is not related to the income tax payable at the end of the year, but is imposed on the revenues of service providers at a rate of almost 30 percent. Before 2012 that tax was next to zero, while up to 2015 it was only paid by casinos and OPAP.

Last year’s increase in gaming tax revenues mainly stemmed from the dues paid by online service providers (+23 million euros) and to a lesser extent OPAP (+16 million euros). Every year OPAP pays the bulk of these taxes as the amount of tax paid by the privatized gaming giant amounts to 70 percent of gaming revenues for the state. In 2017 OPAP paid 482 million euros in GGR tax, with all online companies paying 98 million and casinos adding another 81 million euros.

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