ECONOMY

Downturn dampens gambling spirit

The global economic crisis appears to be taking its toll on gamblers as Greece’s casinos report a drop in betting revenue and the number of punters trying their luck. Figures released yesterday showed that betting revenue at two of the country’s largest casinos – Regency Thessaloniki and Mont Parnes on Mt Parnitha near Athens – from slot machines and tables recently fell by up to 15 percent. The number of people visiting the Thessaloniki casino in 2008 dropped by 1.8 percent to reach 995,000, with customer numbers declining after August when the crisis started to show its teeth. According to industry sources, a small increase in betting turnover is expected this year but most of the gains will go to gaming group OPAP. The economic downturn and the growing number of gamblers trying their luck in the Balkans may weigh on the earnings of the two casinos in 2008, sources added. Casinos in neighboring Balkan countries have constantly been making their deals more attractive in a bid to lure customers over the border. The total amount of money gambled worldwide every year on games of chance such as lotteries, casino betting and horse racing reaches $414 billion, with more than half going to casinos. In Europe, casinos account for 58 billion of the 152-billion-euro gambling pie while in Greece 3.2 billion euros are spent at casinos out of almost 9 billion euros gambled in total every year.