Punters leave millions behind

Betting company OPAP gained a bonus of some 32 million euros in 2005 from gamblers who got lucky but forgot to collect their winnings. Company sources told Kathimerini yesterday that undistributed winnings normally come from people who have won amounts ranging from 2 to 4,000 euros. There are, however, exceptions to the rule, such as an incident a few years ago when one lucky punter had won himself the amount of 900,000 euros but never appeared to collect. «They either lose their tickets or hide them in a lucky place which they later forget,» said an OPAP official. Most of the forgotten sums are from the Joker lottery. Just over 25 million euros remained uncollected from Joker winnings in 2005, while another 6 million euros were never claimed from sport betting game Pame Stoichima. OPAP gives customers between three and six months to collect, depending on the game. The uncollected sums are small compared to the betting company’s annual turnover. OPAP, valued at 9.7 billion euros on the Athens bourse, reported annual revenues in 2005 in excess of 3.5 billion euros. Figures for 2006 are expected to increase considerably after the introduction of betting on local soccer games. The government is also reaping the benefits of forgetful punters. In 2005, the state received a 7.5-million-euro boost from the uncollected winnings from the New Year and popular lotteries. Gamblers have up to four months to cash in their winning tickets in government-organized lotteries.

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