OPAP says new gambling tax will hit sales

OPAP says new gambling tax will hit sales

Greece's OPAP, one of Europe's biggest betting firms, said on Wednesday that a gambling tax which its government and the country's international creditors have agreed on would deter gambling and therefore fail to raise the tax revenue hoped for.

Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos announced the agreement on Tuesday to levy a tax of 0.05 euros on OPAP's lotteries and sports betting to help raise 300-400 million euros a year for the government.

Greece will also introduce a tax on wineries which along with the gambling levy will replace a controversial 23 percent VAT rate on private education.

But OPAP spokesman Odysseas Christophorou said the new levy will discourage bets being placed through its network of about 4,500 outlets and hurt sales, leading to lower tax revenues for the government.

He added that the company could challenge the new tax in court, arguing the measure could give a boost to the country's illegal gambling industry, which is already estimated to take in about 6 billion euros a year.

On top of paying corporate taxes like all other Greek companies, OPAP has since two years ago been giving 30 percent of its gross game revenues to the state. Its overall contribution to state coffers last year totalled more than 500 million euros.

Despite the country's financial woes, which have caused the economy to shrink by about a quarter in the last six years, Greeks remain fervent punters with OPAP, a former state monopoly, generating revenues of 4.3 billion euros last year. [Reuters]

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