Casinos on track for record revenues over this past year

Greek casinos have seen their results surge to new record highs this year, particularly the two which are closest to Athens, Mont Parnes and Loutraki. According to the latest estimates, total betting by December 31 will reach 2.15 billion euros, against 1.95 billion in 2002. Operating revenue is estimated at 520 million euros, compared to last year’s 485 million. Loutraki Casino leads in terms of market share, followed by Thessaloniki’s Hyatt Regency and Mont Parnes. The Greek casino sector has grown dramatically after it was opened to the private sector with the Porto Carras facility in Halkidiki in May 1995. This was followed by the casinos of Loutraki and Xanthi in December of the same year. Rio and Thessaloniki followed in 1996 and Syros in 1997. Rhodes casino opened in 1999. Mont Parnes, one of the two originally state-run casinos, was 49 percent privatized earlier this year. Corfu casino is now on course for majority privatization, after the submission of three bids earlier this month. Its ultimate capacity, after the privatization and the envisaged investment under the terms of tender, will equal that of Rhodes casino, with 30 tables for various games of chance and 300 slot machines. Porto Carras has reopened this year, after the resolution of the operating rights impasse that lasted several years in favor of the owners, construction company Olympic Technical. On the whole, the Greek casino sector has grown without much study or thought as to the effect of the facilities on local communities, and being mainly the result of the government’s desire to boost public revenues. This was also evidenced by the fact that the terms of contract – signed with a view to granting operating licenses – have not been adhered to as regards offsetting benefits to the State; envisaged investment schemes totaling many millions of euros have not been implemented and no one has been held accountable. In the eight years since privatization, betting in Greek casinos has totaled about 12 billion euros and operating revenue 3 billion. This past year has confirmed players’ turn of preference toward slot machines, with bets and revenue overtaking those of table games of chance for the first time in some facilities. Eight years ago, the ratios were about 30-70. Between December 20 and January 5, an estimated 150,000-200,000 players visit Greek casinos every year.