Europe’s biggest gambling company OPAP will launch live betting on foreign soccer matches in its flagship Stoichima game next week, it said yesterday, tapping a niche market that had been illegal. The news boosted OPAP shares by 4.59 percent to 25.98 euros, outperforming the broader Greek market which was up 1.35 percent. Live betting has been illegal in Greece and done mostly over the Internet. OPAP got government approval to enter this market on Monday. «We are ready, along with (gaming operator) Intralot, to offer live betting for the Champions League soccer matches on Tuesday and Wednesday,» CEO Vassilis Neiadas told Reuters. OPAP said it would also launch spread bets for foreign soccer matches this weekend. Analysts welcomed OPAP’s move to introduce additional bets to Stoichima, whose revenues have been declining since the start of the year as the novelty factor waned. But they said a key issue was still the inclusion of domestic games. «By launching those new types of betting, OPAP will make its Stoichima game more popular for players, but the real boost is expected to come from Greek soccer matches,» HSBC Pantelakis analyst Paris Mantzavras said. The government is still dragging its feet on approval for OPAP to tap Greek soccer games, as it tries to clear a potential conflict of interest. It has said teams whose shareholders own stakes in companies operating the fixed-odd betting games could not be included in Stoichima bets. But this is expected to affect Greek league champions Olympiakos, whose major shareholder also holds a 23 percent stake in gaming systems supplier Intralot, the third-biggest in the world. Intralot operates Stoichima till early 2007. In a separate announcement, OPAP said it would soon offer more athletic, as well as non-athletic, events in its flagship Stoichima game in an effort to boost revenues. «Whenever there is a major non-athletic event, it will be included in Stoichima after the approval of OPAP’s board,» Neiadas said. He did not elaborate on the type of events.