ECONOMY

More betting in OPAP

The government announced yesterday it would allow new sports and non-sports events to be included in fixed-odds Stoichima bets run by OPAP in a move to boost the revenue growth of Europe’s biggest gaming company. But the government still dragged its feet on a key approval for OPAP to include Greek soccer games in its flagship Stoichima, whose revenues dropped 31.8 percent in the first half. «We hope with the new modifications, OPAP’s growth will increase further,» Giorgos Orfanos, deputy culture minister in charge of sports, told OPAP shareholders at an extraordinary meeting yesterday. He did not provide details. OPAP, about 34 percent state-owned, has exclusive rights to organize sports betting and numerical games in Greece for the next 15 years. It has 52 percent of the Greek gaming market, which includes casinos and which generated 5.83 billion euros in revenues in 2004. In the summer, the group proposed the inclusion of new types of bets including in-play and under/over betting as well as other sports such as tennis, water polo and car racing on top of Greek soccer matches. Of these proposed changes, inclusion of Greek soccer matches in Stoichima, which now covers only foreign matches, have yet to obtain the government’s clearance, despite the fact that they are seen as crucial to bolster sales. «OPAP would need Stoichima revenues to jump 42 percent year on year within the fourth quarter to meet our full-year 2005 estimates. It is unlikely, however, to achieve this performance without Greek football games in the product,» said Deutsche Bank in a recent report. OPAP executives told reporters the company was technologically ready to launch new types of betting, days after the approval is published in the Government Gazette. «From the moment the approval is published, we can launch within two to three days,» OPAP Managing Director Vassilis Niadas said. Shareholders renewed OPAP’s board of directors for another term but reduced its numbers to 11 from 13, deciding that the government, which now holds 34.5 percent in the company, can henceforth appoint only six of the 11 board members, instead of the entire board.