By Vangelis Mandravelis
The government struck a deal with the European Commission on Wednesday for the imposition of a 30 percent gaming tax on the gross revenues of OPAP as of the new year, putting an end to the sticking point of state subsidies to the corporation and paving the way toward its privatization.
The agreement has doubtlessly disappointed OPAP’s shareholders and its announcement sent the company’s stock tumbling to 4.31 euros, posting a record one-day drop of over 18 percent. Its capitalization since last Friday has shrunk by more than 600 million euros. The state is expected to reap some half a billion euros per year from the tax.
The Greek-EC deal also foresees punters’ profits being taxed 10 percent from the first euro, as opposed to the current threshold of 100 euros. OPAP’s betting agents, who will see their revenues and commission slide, believe that will lead to a drop in gaming and an increase in illegal betting.
The tax on gaming machines is set to rise from 30 percent to 35 percent, provided revenues exceed a certain limit that the Finance Ministry has not yet specified, although it is certain to be low enough for the 35 percent clause to apply in most cases.
OPAP has already paid a deposit of 375 million euros to retain its monopoly in the Greek market for another 10 years (from 2020 to 2030). That amount will now be deducted from the 30 percent tax the corporation will have to pay as of January 2013.
Half of the 500 million euros per year of anticipated revenues will come from the 30 percent tax, while the rest will derive from taxing punters’ earnings. Alpha Finance data show that had the new tax status applied in 2011, OPAP would have had to contribute 347 million euros to state coffers, with another 350 million from taxing punter earnings from the first euro, instead of 60 million paid last year. The decline in revenues next year will see the total shrink to an expected 500 million euros.
Besides authorizing the launch of the sell-off process for OPAP, the state privatizations fund (TAIPED) decided yesterday to call for binding offers for the operation of state lotteries within the next 45 days.