Despite just having entered their busiest period of the year, Greek casinos have already surpassed last year’s performance, with gamblers placing bets totaling some 2.5 billion euros over the last 12 months. The figure represents a substantial rise over last year’s 2.2 billion euros, bearing in mind that a large number of gamblers are still expected to pass through casino doors before the year is out. Based on previous statistics, some 200,000 people are likely to visit the nine licensed casinos around the country between December 20 and January 5. Almost 3 million people in total will have visited Greek casinos by the end of the year. The Loutraki casino, southeast of Athens, is the most popular with gamblers, boasting 33 percent of total turnover from the nine casinos, followed by that of Thessaloniki and Mount Parnitha. The casinos’ combined turnover is expected to reach 600 million euros, compared to 525 million euros in 2003. Greece’s first private casino opened in Halkidki in 1995 and the State still owns 51 percent of the Mont Parnes Casino.