OPAP unruffled by (distant) prospect of end to its monopoly

Soccer betting and lottery firm OPAP said yesterday it was not worried by a possible freeing-up of the Greek betting market, as it would provide greater opportunities for Europe’s biggest gaming company. Foreign betting companies have expressed interest in entering the Greek market, some resorting to the courts to put an early end to OPAP’s monopoly, which expires in 2020. Analysts say a recent EU directive could result in the monopoly being cut short, possibly in as little as five years. «We must not see the abolishment of the monopoly only as a threat, that you will lose a share of the domestic market,» Managing Director Vassilis Neiadas told institutional investors. «It also provides endless opportunities.» Analysts say freeing up the Greek betting market will also mean allowing Internet betting, which is now illegal in the country, but where OPAP sees potential growth. OPAP is 34.4 percent-owned by the Greek State. Neiadas said the planned upgrade by mid-2007 of OPAP’s electronic terminals will make the company more competitive and provide potential benefits from the introduction of new games. «The new system will allow for betting via satellite around the world, enabling someone to offer (its flagship fixed-odd betting game) Stoichima and (soccer betting game) Propo to Greeks in Australia once the required permits are granted,» he said. (Reuters)