June 15, 2010 / 8:00 PM / 10 years ago

Greek gaming machines stage comeback amid crisis

ATHENS, June 15 (Reuters) - Debt-laden Greece said on Tuesday it will lift a ban on low-price gaming and gambling machines to help raise cash amid efforts to avoid bankruptcy.

The government will soon release a draft law on electronic gaming and Internet betting, the finance ministry said in an e-mail. “The regulative framework will soon be presented for public consultation,” it said.

Greece has earmarked about 1.3 billion euros ($1.74 billion) in revenues from betting licences and royalties over the next three years as part of a 110 billion euro bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

In 2003, Greece imposed a blanket ban on gambling machines, excluding slot machines in casinos, after illegal operators mushroomed in the industry. The EU has since ruled that the ban is violating European law and forced Greece to pay 31,500 euros a day in fines.

Greece’s regulated betting market, consisting of gambling monopoly OPAP (OPAr.AT), casinos, horse races and state lotteries, amounted to about 8.7 billion euros last year. The illegal betting market is estimated between 3.5 and 5 billion euros. (Reporting by Harry Papachristou and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Gary Hill)

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