ECONOMY

OPAP seeks justice over VLT freeze

opap-seeks-justice-over-vlt-freeze

The OPAP gaming company has resorted to arbitration over the Greek state’s freeze on the introduction of video lottery terminals, also known as VLTs, at the company’s agencies.

The recently privatized domestic gaming monopoly is seeking damages of 1 billion euros in response to lottery industry regulations introduced by the Hellenic Gaming Commission (EEEP) which according to OPAP have effectively ruled out the launch of the VLTs.

The Athens-based firm has taken recourse to the London Court of International Arbitration, as the contract for the concession of the operating license for the 35,000 VLTs provides for.

OPAP’s management has also delivered a written warning to the Finance Ministry in Athens regarding the alleged violation of shareholders’ and agents’ rights both regarding Internet betting and the imposition of a tax of 0.05 euros per bet.

In doing so, OPAP is making out-of-court declarations regarding what it sees as violations of its rights in sports betting, rights that for many years had been disputed. OPAP stresses that it maintains the monopoly in the market based on the concession contract signed between the company and the Hellenic Republic, and cites a clause saying that it maintains the exclusive right to implement the game “in any appropriate fashion.” Of course the Internet was fairly small back in 2000, when the concession contract was written, but OPAP argues the clause is good enough to protect its rights.

As for the 0.05-euro levy, OPAP is making it known to the state that its imposition also violates the Athens-listed firm’s rights. “It constitutes discriminatory handling of the company at its expense and to the benefit of other suppliers of games of chance in Greece,” legal or illegal. It also says that it is keeping its options open regarding legal action beyond the written warning issued on Thursday.

OPAP officials noted on Thursday that the government’s decisions concern all shareholders, from major investment funds to small shareholders, as well as the entire OPAP network of 4,500 agents and their 20,000 employees.