According to a relevant announcement, on 4 October 2011, the Remote Gambling Association - RGA filed a complaint with the European Commission regarding alleged violations stemming from the recent Greek legislation regulating the gaming market (Law 4002/2011), in relation to the European Union rules prohibiting unfair state grants. Their key argument is that the tax regime of OPAP SA regarding the games the company operates in Greece, will be more favourable compared to the respective regime legally stipulated for other online gaming providers-members of the above Association, who will utilise the provisions of this law to submit the relevant application, when the Greek State decides to call the relevant tender. RGA's complaint is unfounded, while its announcement is misleading, intended exclusively to create a sensation. Specifically:
- There is no preferential tax treatment of OPAP SA in Law 4002/2011 and hence no state grant, as RGA claims offering no substantiation. And this is because OPAP SA, through the concession contracts with the Greek State, pays a total price which includes the stipulated future charge (not tax) from the operation of games of chance. According to numerous estimates made by independent financial houses, both on the part of the Greek State and on the part of OPAP SA, the overall price that OPAP SA will be called to pay for extension of the gaming contract for 2020-2030, and the installation of 35,000 VLTs, is absolutely reasonable for both sides. As regards the extension of the gaming contract for 2020-2030, the price also represents an advance payment of the 30% charge on the gross profit regarding the amounts that will arise from operation of online gaming license holders, while one should also take into consideration that for the games already operated by OPAP SA and for the period covered by the contract extension (2020-2030), OPAP SA will pay an additional 5%.
- The European Commission has, on numerous occasions repeated in its decisions that different tax treatment does not constitute a state grant per se. On the contrary, all parameters of each legislative regulation or contractual activity should be taken into account, so as to assess whether there actually is an overall different economic treatment and ultimately, a state grant. In this case OPAP SA pays in advance the largest part of its tax obligation, assuming the respective financial burden to immediately pay the respective price. On the contrary, our future competitors will not need to pay anything in advance, but a minimal amount, compared to what OPAP SA will pay, and will only pay the games charge on the basis of realised revenues, when this happens.
OPAP SA, respectful of all its shareholders, will fully safeguard its interests both vis-a-vis the Greek State and, in particular, before the European Commission, always respecting the responsible gaming rules and observing the strictest regulatory framework governing games of chance in Greece, indeed in such particularly hard times for the country.
Moreover, OPAP SA finds it truly ironic that while it has contributed large sums to the Greek State and to Greek society over the years through its income taxes, sponsorships, social activities and dividends payable to its shareholders, today it is being accused by those who operate uncontrollably and illegally in Greece, without having contributed one single euro to the Greek economy through taxation.
Furthermore, RGA is very provocative in making this complaint, overlooking the fact that its members, that have for long been operating illegally in our country, although Law 4002/2011 offered them the right to pay taxes and other charges corresponding to their current turnover, as well as the turnover of the previous two years, thus, in a sense, lifting the illegal nature of their operation until the legal licenses are granted by the Greek State, they completely disregarded this right and continued to pursue their illegal activity.
We are confident that legality will prevail and we have absolutely no concerns for the judgment of the European Commission.
Further to the above, it is obvious that with its complaint to the EU, RGA is trying to stir up sensationalism, invoking arguments not founded on actual fact, but on the contrary, it actually exposes its members, who – in spite of the new Law – still operate in Greece illegally.