Greece Debuts New Online Gambling Law Proposals, Hikes Taxes

A new draft law to end Greece’s uneasy system of temporary online licensing appeared early this morning at parliament, licensing random number generator (RNG) casino games and virtual sports but raising effective taxation rates for the booming market.

After midnight last night, the draft development law was sent to Greece’s parliament widening the range of available games, but increasing the taxation burden on prospective operators by repealing elements of Article 50 of the existing Greek gaming law (Law 4002/11).

The new proposals would cancel the favourable provision which allowed deduction of 35 percent gaming tax paid from income subject to corporate taxation, effectively raising the corporate taxation by more than a third.

The draft confounded rumours circulating on Wednesday that new proposals may have lowered tax rates to 15 percent.

The late-night submission of the law prompted one observer to note: "Somebody is pushing very hard for this to be concluded quickly.”

In April, Greece’s previous government notified proposals to the European Commission with a €5m licence fee for each product vertical, but excluded the licensing of RNG casino-type games. The move was met by howls of protest from operators already in the market.

The Syriza government, helmed by Alexis Tsipras, lost a snap election in July and since then speculation has intensified that the incoming New Democracy administration would seek to revise those proposals and submit their own.

Rumours only intensified following the controversial annulment by Greece’s top court of the online betting exclusivity claims of OPAP, the formerly state-owned betting company.

Under the new law, which contains 14 articles related to online gambling, licence fees for online betting will be set at €3m, a reduction from the previous government’s € 5m, while licences for other online games including poker and RNG games will each cost €2m. Virtual games will also be permitted, as part of the sports betting licence.

The licence fee will not be tax deductible, according to the draft.

The inclusion of RNG games is new and the result of frenzied lobbying by interests close to the government.

RNG and casino type games currently account for approximately 30 percent of the market, which has grown sharply under the temporary system that licensed 24 operators, only a few of which have significant market share.

To qualify for the new licences, candidates must be legal entities with a registered office in Greece, or another EU member state and each must have paid-up capital of at least €200,000.

The new licences will each be valid for seven years, the same period as the licences proposed by the previous government in the law they notified to Brussels.

A company blacklisted in the EU during the year prior to licensing would be excluded from licensing.

Licensees will be required to maintain a server with their game data in Greece and they must maintain that data for a period of ten years.

Each licence holder will be required to submit a €500,000 letter of guarantee, financial statements for the last three years, certificates of financial and tax information and proof of solvency.

The new online gambling licences will be issued within two months of an application being filed and the non-issuance of a decision by the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) will constitutes a rejection of the application.

Under the new laws, electronic money institutions have been added to the list of accounts a player may use and a registry of approved institutions will be created.

Affiliates must be registered by the HGC and licence holders are required to cooperate exclusively only with approved affiliates, who will now be taxed.

Finally, Article 192 of the draft law requires that the finance ministry have control of game licensing rules and have the power to change them on the recommendation of the HGC, replacing Article 29 of Law 4002/11, which required a presidential decree for changes to be made.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested that licenses would be available for betting exchanges.