OPINION: Greek reforms loom large Hannah Gannagé-Stewart, CDC Gaming Reports · January 30, 2020 at 7:04 am Recent weeks have seen Greece creep nearer to finalising a raft of regulatory reforms that will readmit online operators to the market, years after the 2012 clampdown in favour of the state monopoly OPAP. The country’s apparent reticence to comply with EU laws for the bulk of the last decade has slowed progress in drawing up the new regulations, which the Greek Ministry of Finance finally submitted to the European Commission in early January. The regulations are now subject to a standstill period until 1 April. The 24 operators that were granted licences in 2011 are free to continue operating until 31 March 2020, after which they will be expected to reapply under the new regime. At first glance, the cost of licences may appear to be the biggest sting in the tail. Operators will have to stump up €3m for a sports betting licence and €2m for an online gaming licence, and they may hold one of each licence. But it may be some consolation that licenses are valid for seven years. And when the legislation was first mooted back in 2018, licences were pitched at around €5m each, so it is clear that some negotiations took place. The tax regime under the new regulations is designed to make avoidance of tax very difficult. There will be a 20% corporation tax on operators, assessed before a 35% revenue tax is deducted from corporate profits. This is a tweak on the 2011 regulations, which allowed operators to deduct the revenue tax from their corporate tax payment. Earlier drafts of the proposals attempted to ban random number generator (RNG) games entirely. However, after threats of legal action by operators, the Greek Ministry of Finance yielded to pressure. The current draft permits RNGs but still makes the terms around offering these games relatively prohibitive. RNGs are proposed to have a maximum stake of €2, with the profit to the operator, per gaming session, to be capped at €5,000. Jackpot games would be limited to a maximum €500,000 pay-out. On top of that, the Ministry of Finance has outlined a partial ban on advertising RNG products. They will only be permitted to be promoted through the sites they are played from, a difficult sell in a new market. Online sports betting, poker, and other casino products would not be subject to the same restrictions, but given the popularity of slots game among regular players, the restrictions could create issues for some operators. It may be a particular hindrance when competing with offshore brands, which might be somewhat ironic – the Greek government hopes to discourage play at those offshore brands, in favour of its own licensees, to increase monies going to the country’s tax coffers. The ruling Syriza party is reported to have estimated that licensing fees and taxes from the reforms could raise an extra €500m per year. However, as with all regulatory reforms, the income will only come in if operators feel able to compete. Operators who have been blacklisted by the country’s regulator, The Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC), are ineligible to apply for licenses if the ban happened in the 12 months prior to the application. Although some media outlets report that thousands of operators have been blacklisted since 2012, operators do have the right to request that they be removed from the list after a year. Then, if they have ceased offering their services in Greece, in theory they should remain off the list. At present there are 650 websites on the banned list, although more than one website could belong to the same operator. Brands on the list at present include 888 Holdings, BetVictor, and Nektan. But it’s not entirely clear whether brands that have been on the list for longer than a year and asked to be removed, or those that remain but were initially listed over a year ago, will be able to apply on a level playing with those that were never blacklisted. According to the HGC the only criteria for potentially finding yourself on the list is to be a website which was detected as having provided “unauthorised gambling services in the Greek Territory”. The HGC does not stipulate that the sites must offer their products in Greek, for example, although some of those listed are known to have done so. Nor is it clear precisely what operators are expected to do to prevent their sites being accessed by Greek residents. The HGC criteria does suggest that sites that have not proactively marketed their products in Greece could still quite easily be affected. Meanwhile being blacklisted doesn’t prevent offshore operators from continuing to serve Greek punters. The big question is whether they will see the benefit in seeking a license, even if allowed to, rather than continuing on as is. Also, affiliates will have to consider how they tackle the new Greek regulatory regime. They will be expected to pay €1,000 licensing fee to the HGC in order to market platforms in the territory. The HGC has been given the task of acting as a registry for authorised marketing partnerd, which means licensed operators will be approved to conduct consumer-facing promotions in the country only with affiliates that have been licensed by the regulatory body.