NEWS

Over 5 bln euros plunked on games of chance last year

As wallets become emptier, gambling has been on the rise – legal gambling that is heavily advertised in the media on a daily basis. At the state lottery organization, the football pools (OPAP), and at the country’s casinos, those in charge have been rubbing their hands together in glee, and for good reason. Over the past year Greeks have spent more than 5 billion euros and these figures are excluding OPAP games for the final quarter. The most traditional way to pit oneself against Lady Luck is to buy a lottery ticket, which accounted for about 375 billion euros in 2004. According to the Finance Ministry, the Laiko Lottery’s 52 draws earned about 215 million euros, the National Lottery 109.26 million in 105 draws, while the New Year State Lottery was expected to haul in about 50 million euros. Compared to last year, the Laiko’s earnings increased by 20 percent and the National’s by 1.5 percent. Ministry sources attribute the increased sales to the high percentage of takings that go to winners (70 percent of net profits on the Laiko, 74 percent on the National and 62 percent for the New Year lotteries). OPAP games of chance (such as Stoichima, Pro-Po and Lotto), are still very popular, with a 31.83 percent increase in revenue over the January-September period. In real terms, this means a revenue increase from 1.66 billion euros in 2003 to 2.19 billion in 2004. Of OPAP’s nine games, Stoichima is the most popular, providing revenue of 1,226,088,329 euros, up from 1,223,880,432 euros over the same period in 2003. Second is Kino, which began in November 2003 and which accounted for revenues of 516,864,109 euros. Statistically, the greatest increase was recorded in the Joker, on which Greeks spent 183,535,793 euros, compared to 142,724,104 in 2003, an increase of 28.59 percent. The Super 3 earned more than 100 million euros this year, but sales were down by 10.9 percent compared with the previous year. Pro-Po’s «1-2-X» earned nearly 54.5 million euros this year, Lotto over 46 million and Proto around 34.6 million. Another 27.6 million went on Extra 5 and 1.3 million on Pro-Po-Goal. All in all, Greeks spent several hundred million euros more this year on OPAP games. In the whole of 2003, the astronomic sum of 2,271,379,400 was spent, but in the first nine months of 2004, 96.5 percent of that sum had already been spent, while the average monthly revenue never fell below 200 million euros. December 2003 was not particularly profitable, despite the Christmas season, bringing in just 211 million euros on OPAP games, compared to 260 million in September of the same year. «Beyond a doubt, increased revenue for OPAP is due to the credibility of the games and of the organization itself, which goes back 46 years and has won people’s respect,» said its managing director, Sotiris Kostakos. «As for the increase in money spent on games of chance, it is clear that these days people want to leave a window open for Lady Luck. In any case, most of the money goes back into society, either in the form of winnings or as support for culture and sporting events and through sponsorships.» Bets doubled at nine casinos Over the past year, the country’s nine casinos were the repository for about 5 billion euros in bets, up sharply from 2.2 billion in 2003. The Loutraki casino leads the field, accounting for about one third of that amount. Over the three days of this last Christmas weekend, the number of visitors to the Mont Parnes casino doubled and turnover rose by 329 percent. Over the whole of 2004, 2.85 million people visited casinos. Over the nine-year period since private casinos opened in Greece, the total value of bets placed runs over 14 billion euros and casinos’ turnover 3.6 billion euros.