July 14, 2011 / 8:55 PM / 8 years ago

Greece wants OPAP to have major role in new VLTs business

ATHENS, July 14 (Reuters) - Greece proposed on Thursday that its lucrative betting monopoly OPAP (OPAr.AT) had a major role in the country’s plans to open up its video lottery machines market (VLTs) later this year.

The indebted nation has tabled a draft law in March lifting the ban on VLTs and online betting as part of its current 110 billion euro EU/IMF bailout. But less than a month later it took it back after strong criticism by ruling party lawmakers the bill will turn the cash-strapped country into a “vast casino. [ID:nLDE7361SR]

On Thursday, Greece resubmitted the bill and proposed that OPAP, one of its most valuable assets which is slated for privatisation by the end of the year, will get a licence for 16,500 gaming machines out of a total of 35,000 to be awarded across the country.

“Allowing the operation of gaming machines carries complex and delicate problems,” said the amended document. “For this reason a gradual deregulation method has been chosen.”

OPAP holds the sports betting and lotteries monopoly in the country until 2020, producing annual revenues of about 5.5 billion euros. According to the amended bill, the firm is entitled to get a licence for the VLTs as part of its monopoly.

The new draft law also said that OPAP has the right to lease all or part of the low-price machines, while Greece will launch an open tender for the rest.

Under the previous bill, Greece planned to hold a tender for 30,000 gaming machines and OPAP would have to bid for a licence.

For related news see [ID:nLDE7571AL] [ID:nLDE7361SR]

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, editing by Bernard Orr

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