The online gambling industry is incredibly lucrative at the moment. Reports and statistics have shown that this industry alone brings in billions annually. With it being such a lucrative and massively popular industry at the moment, it only makes sense that countries aim to legalize and regulate the market for their financial gain.
Greece, the birthplace of democracy and the Olympic Games, is one of the countries that have been struggling a lot when it comes to finances. Over the past few years, its economy has taken a massive dip. It is because of this that the Greek government was forced into making major changes in all sectors that can help financially, and this includes the way online gambling is regulated in the country.
In this article, we take a look at the history and gambling laws over the years, as well as all recent developments regarding legislation and how it affects any and all players taking part in the act of online gambling in Greece.
It’s no secret that for the majority of its existence Greece has been completely against gambling. In fact, when online gambling first began in 2002 the Greek government immediately passed a law that banned all forms of electronic gambling. Unfortunately, the law wasn’t very specific, which meant that online gambling, land-based gambling machines and online video games were all banned. It was implemented to such extremes that even PlayStation and Xbox games were banned from internet cafés.
Luckily the laws changed when the government implemented the Gambling Act in 2011 that would make land-based and online gambling legal. The reason behind the change of heart was mainly because the government wanted to raise money through betting licences and taxes. With the Gambling Act of 2011, 24 operators were granted interim licences. The operators included big names such as Betfair and William Hill, to name only two.
Things changed again in 2012 when the Greek Ministry of Finance was starting plans to monopolise the online gambling market within the country in favour of OPAP, a state-run operator. OPAP already had a monopoly over all sports betting and lottery industries in the country. The government was determined to implement the changes and warned those with interim licenses to cool down their service offerings.
Unfortunately for the government, Greece is one of the countries that are bound by EU regulations and when concerns were raised about the legality of the Greek Gambling industry, the CJEU stepped in and ruled that OPAP’s monopoly was unlawful. This took place at the start of 2013, which led to the Greek government had to revise their laws once more. There were a lot of concerns raised, and even a standstill period of three months, after which OPAP was still granted a monopoly over the gambling industry but until 2030.
Due to a lack of funds, a heavy financial crisis and receiving help from the EU twice, Greece was forced to reconsider OPAP’s gambling monopoly. At the end of 2017 Greek officials started working on a new bill that would ultimately bring more freedom to both land-based and online gambling operators.
The new bill will support the development of new land-based casinos as well as the expansion of existing casinos. With the new bill, the online gambling sector will also receive a boost, thanks to the government’s plans to enhance the gambling industry. The new bill will only be enacted in 2020 if approved, but it will be a turning point for the Greek economy. If the new bill is passed, new gambling licences will be issued and there will be plenty of licence fees and gaming taxes implemented to help the country out of its financial crisis.
The good news, however, is that once this bill is approved international online gambling operators will be allowed once more to apply for licences to operate in Greece. The Hellenic Gaming Commission will be in charge of handling the licensing approval process for both online and land-based casino operators. According to government officials, the decision to open their gambling market to foreign operators is an attempt to reach their goal of boosting tourism in the country. Greece is already considered to be one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the world, and if that is combined with a more free gambling market there is no telling what revenue it could unlock.
Although the current laws and legislation regarding taxes of online gambling winnings could change with the new Bill once implemented, players still need to be aware of where they currently stand. In Greece players who make any winnings from lottery games, which includes all games of chance and sports betting, are required to pay tax. These players are required by law to declare their winnings within 30 days after receiving the results on the win. The tax rate for any gambling or lottery winnings at the moment is a flat 10%.
For online gambling operators and land-based gambling operators, taxes could be increased with the new bill. There have been reports that the Greek government wants to change the taxes of such operators to a flat rate of 30 to 35%. There is still much debate around this, so it is unclear whether such changes will be implemented.
For many years Greek officials have been either against online gambling or trying to monopolize it. Due to the current financial situation, the government has been forced to make changes to their laws which would mean more freedom and leeway for both local and foreign operators to enter the market. These changes, however, could only be implemented as early as January 2020.
For the time being OPAP still has a monopoly over online gambling, and ISP’s have been known to block foreign online gambling sites that were available to Greek citizens. With the laws and regulations set to change, many foreign online gambling operators have already started opening their sites up to Greek players. Online gambling is still considered illegal if done on foreign sites but the government will not prosecute any players who do so.
Times are changing in Greece, and pretty soon players will be able to choose from a variety of online casinos legally. Until then it is wise to pick your foreign online casino wisely. Take a look at our list of top-rated online casinos for a safer choice. These casinos have all been vetted and reviewed to ensure they are safe and fair to play at.
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