OPAP, Oh Boy: a Once Dominant Government Monopoly in Greece is Fighting for Its Very ExistencePublished August 11, 2020 by Lee R
With online sports betting getting wiped off the slate and confidence still down, OPAP will need to find it way.
People are still asking this in regards to the Greek market, where what was once a dominant government monopoly is now struggling to find it's identity.
Understanding this organization does not is not easy, starting with the name: OPAP stands for the Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics S.A. and originally offered lottery and sports betting tied to its football leagues.
Headquartered in Athens, OPAP continued for many years as a state-owned gambling monopoly—until the market was expanded to gambling games online.
Today, the organisation does retain no shortage of exclusive rights—but limited to numerical lotteries; sports betting games and horse racing in Greece.
However, OPAP is a government monopoly ended when it was privatized with the government's sale of a 33% stake of OPAP to equity fund Emma Delta in 2013.
The confusion stemming from OPAP actually originated in 2011--when the Greek government legalised and opened up online gambling by selling 24 interim licenses to international operators including William Hill and Betfair while retaining control of sports betting and lotteries through OPAP.
Rapid Government Reversal
However, scant more than a year later, upon discovering the destruction wrought on OPAP's share prices, the Greek government sought to expel the licensees and revert online gambling in the hands of their monopoly OPAP.
The OPAP Controversy
The ensuring battle with trade association Remote Gambling Association went all the way to the ECJ. The EU's Supreme Court of Justice declared the OPAP monopoly illegal in January 2013. The Greek government was compelled to sell its 33 percent stake in OPAP to Emma Delta for E622m, at a price some 58 percent lower than the 2011 level at the time when they tried to backpedal.
Today's OPAP Rights
Though not a government monopoly since 2013, OPAP has retained government-influenced domination in the sport bet and lottery sectors by prohibiting online gambling companies from offering sports bets and random number generator (RNG) games over the internet. This left only live casino games and poker verticals to the competition.
OPAP is the exclusive licensed operator of all numerical lotteries in Greece, covering 7 games; sports betting covering 4 games; and horse racing. OPAP further retains control of lotteries as controlling shareholder (67%) of a joint venture of passive lotteries and instant (scratch) games. OPAP maintains exclusive licenses in Greece for scratch tickets and passives license through 2026; horse racing through 2036; and operation of 25,000 video lottery terminals (VLTs) through 2035.
Open to Competition
Leading competitors to emerge in the casino and poker sector include Gambling Malta-supported Stoiximan; UK-based bet365; and Sporting Odds supported Sportingbet and Bwin brands, which brought in just over $25 million in corona-stricken months of May 2020.
When last seen, OPAP was scrambling to diversify its online offerings to include casino and poker after a nightmarish Covid closure period that almost totally erased live sports betting revenues.
There is no longer any chance OPAP will be mistaken for a monopoly in Greece as it joins the fray of competition in the online poker and casino markets, which now have emerged in Greece just like everywhere else as iGaming's most stable sectors.