Cyprus Mail

Greek betting giant Opap under review

The National Betting Authority (EAS) is in the process of blocking some 2,500 online gambling websites MPs heard on Monday.

The EAS was taking part in the House finance committee’s meeting which focused on a series of bills on betting and games of chance.

As online casinos are forbidden in Cyprus the EAS told MPs, it is in the process of blocking more than 2,500 websites that offer such games.

The committee also discussed, as part of the bill on the games of chance, the review of the interstate agreement with Greece which gives betting giant Opap a monopoly on lottery number games in Cyprus, as according to the auditor-general, the government loses around €1m per month.

Under the current arrangement – renewed in 2003 – Opap in Cyprus pays some €10m in taxes – meaning the state is currently losing out on potential additional tax revenues of €10 m a year, the auditor-general said last week.

In May 2014, Cyprus moved to withdraw from the interstate agreement with Greece, and requested a year to prepare legislation regulating the lottery market, but it subsequently reversed its decision to terminate the agreement.

A bill that had in the meantime been prepared was scrapped, and more recently the finance ministry completed another piece of legislation that has been submitted to the House for consideration.

The new bill provides for the exclusive rights to be granted to a single provider to operate specific ‘lottery games’ in Cyprus for a specific period of time and under specific conditions.

It further stipulates that the provider must pay the state 24 per cent tax on its gross profits (by comparison, Opap pays 30 per cent tax in Greece), or at least €20 million per year, depending on which is greater.

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