By Constantinos Psillides
BETTING companies have united their voices to demand that the state ends betting giant’s OPAP monopoly on lottery number games – such as Lotto and Joker – claiming that the current system hurts competition and goes against EU fair trade practices.
Representatives from betting companies Bet on Alfa, Fair Champions Meridien, Cy Bet and Megabet Plus held a press conference on Monday to announce the forming of the Cyprus Betting Companies Association (CBCA), with the OPAP issue topping the agenda.
CBCA chairman Akis Avraamides stated that politicians are dragging their feet and that OPAP’s status should have been abolished long ago.
“We demand an end to the monopoly and preferential treatment OPAP receives from the state. This is now a public company and it’s owned by Czechs,” stated Avraamides, adding that it is the lawmakers’ duty to ensure fair competition.
The once state-run betting giant – founded in Greece in 1958 – turned into a joint stock company in 1999 and in 2013 the cash-strapped Greek state sold the majority of stocks – 33 per cent – to Emma Delta Hellenic Holding Limited, a Greek-Czech group.
Based on a bilateral agreement signed by Cyprus and Greece -renewed in 2003 – OPAP is the only company allowed to run lottery games on the island. The betting companies argue that since the Greek state is no longer a shareholder, then OPAP’s special status should be abolished.
“Betting companies invest millions, give large sums back to the state, pay taxes, open up job posts and much more,” said Avraamides, adding that opening up competition would attract many more investors.
The CBCA also claimed that opening up lottery games for more players would result in lower illegal betting numbers.