OPAP, which is 34% owned by the Greek government, gained approval from shareholders yesterday for a videolotto license and a 10-year extension of its monopoly. The move is undoubtedly an attempt by debt-saddled Greece to boost OPAP’s value ahead of the sale of its stake in Europe’s biggest betting operator next year.
OPAP agreed last month to pay €935 million to the Greek government for the licence deal, of which €849 million is expected to be used to pay down national debt. The company also secured shareholder approval for a loan of up to €600 million to finance the deal.
Under the terms of the EU/IMF bailout plan, Greece must raise €50 billion by 2015 from selling stakes in state firms and other assets to help to pay down a debt mountain expected to reach 162% of GDP this year.
In late October, the Greek government announced that it will delay the sale of its stake in OPAP, initially planned for the fourth quarter of 2011
Earlier in the month, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) filed a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that Greece’s online gambling legislation is in breach of EU State Aid rules. According to the RGA, tax treatment of OPAP would give it an unfair economic advantage over private gambling operators.
The Greek monopoly operator issued a statement less than a week later. OPAP called the complaint “unfounded” and claimed that “different tax treatment does not in itself constitute state aid.”