ECONOMY

Casinos lose out in 2010 as revenues dip

The economic crisis, a rise in illegal gambling activity, the uncontrolled proliferation of games of chance on the Internet and competition from casinos in neighboring countries have hit Greek casinos? 2010 revenues.

According to initial estimates from industry sources, turnover at Greece?s nine casinos fell in 2010 by up to 18 percent year-on-year, or some 120 million euros.

Total revenues are estimated to have exceeded 500 million euros. Last year?s drop followed a 16 percent annual reduction in 2009 revenues.

Industry sources have described the increase in illegal gambling over the last 12 months as ?frightening.?

At the same time they point out the government?s inability to restrict the growth of Internet gambling.

Illegal gambling is estimated to be worth an annual 4 billion euros in Greece, without the government taxing a single euro of this amount.

The sector is also feeling the effects of growing competition in the neighboring countries of Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), particularly in northern Greece.

Between January and November last year, total revenues booked by casinos fell at an annual clip of 17.7 percent to 469.1 million euros.

The largest drop was in Halkidiki, northern Greece, where turnover tumbled 44.6 percent to 7.9 million euros. Next on the list was Xanthi in the northeast, where revenues dropped 27.7 percent to 6.9 million euros.

The worsening conditions will also take a toll on state revenues as the government pockets between 20 and 33 percent of casino revenues.

Industry sources added that business during the busy festive period, which normally draws some 200,000 people, was down from last year.

Indicative of this is the casino in Loutraki, west of Athens, where the number of visitors dropped 20 percent between December 24 and 26 and the December 31 to January 2 period.