OPAP tender on course

Greece’s betting monopoly OPAP will name the winner of a technology upgrade tender by mid-July, the company’s chief executive said yesterday. OPAP launched the tender in early 2006, but objections by bidders and the resignation of some members on the evaluation committee delayed the process. «The absolute deadline (to name a winner) is mid-July. So we cannot delay any further,» OPAP’s CEO Vassilis Neiadas told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference. «We expect the technical offers to be opened by mid-May.» Procedurally, OPAP must first open technical bids before moving on to the financial component of the offers. Analysts say it is crucial for the group to conclude the tender as the upgrade will help OPAP run its fixed-odd sports betting game known as Stoichima. Neiadas said a possible end to OPAP’s betting monopoly in Greece sooner than expected would not pose a serious threat to the firm. «Even if the Greek state was obliged to give more than one (betting) license in three-to-four years, I don’t see why this should be a threat to OPAP,» Neiadas said. He said OPAP has the size and know-how to compete with its competitors in Europe. OPAP has an exclusive right to organize sports bets and lotteries in Greece until 2020 after paying -322 million in 2000. But several gambling firms have challenged the monopoly, eyeing a share of the country’s lucrative betting market. Earlier this month, Britain’s biggest bookmaker William Hill asked the Greek government for a license to open betting shops in the country. Greece has not made a decision, but Neiadas said he hoped the government would reject William Hill’s request. «We hope (the Greek government) will respect their agreement with OPAP,» Neiadas said. British casino operator Stanley Leisure also applied for a license to operate in Greece in 2005 but the Greek government turned down the request. (Reuters)

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