Casino: The Internet shook the bank in the air ...

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The recent adjustments to their debt obligations by Greek casinos last week, as well as the licensing revocations imposed last Thursday by the Gambling Control and Supervision Committee (EEEP), have shown the magnitude of the problem created by the buying casinos. According to all indications, in the coming months new businesses will be set up in our country, with hundreds of unpaid workers who will be driven to unemployment and with tens of millions of euros in debts to the Social Security Funds and the State and possibly to third parties.

Many factors contributed to the creation of this gloomy scene, according to market executives. First and foremost, it was the devaluation of the impact of the Internet and its online services. The course the Internet has taken since 2006 has been cataclysmic, and as an experienced casino market official says, it was hard to predict. "We didn't expect this sharp turn. Within five to ten years, players get off the table and switch to mobile, ”he says.

Other factors contributed to this. For example, at a time when the use of the Internet is growing, the country is entering the tunnel of recession. Almost 25% of Greeks' income will be lost in the next 4-5 years, making Greek casino visits more expensive and sparse.

This negative situation for casino businessmen has been exacerbated by its privatization OPAP. The latter, to make it more attractive in a difficult time, has been gifted by the government with new toys and rights. The fact that the former state-owned enterprise was taken over by a dynamic and efficient player (Sazka Group) was another development not anticipated by casino businessmen. So the private one OPAP has managed to adapt better than casino companies. The latter saw at the end of the crisis losing more than 2/3 of their gross revenue and of the approximately € 777 million in 2007, they fell to € 253 million in 2017.

But there are responsibilities in the governments as well. The latter in the name of maintaining jobs - if not for other reasons e.g. voters, etc. - left the businesses "loose", whether they owed themselves to staff, to insurance funds or even to the Greek State. The last time he tried to "tighten the straps", he had spectacular results.

This happened in 2013, with the arrangement brought by the Games Committee (EEEP) to pay the tax on games by electronic banking on the same day. The penalty for not paying the tax at the end of the day was withdrawing the casino license. Since then, no casino has delayed its debt to the State.

The same thing happened last week. As soon as the casinos realized that licenses were being withdrawn imminently, they began to settle their debts. So happy was the Labor Ministry leadership last Friday for regulating 60% of casino debt. "If this pressure were applied more often, the (casino) debt of the casinos probably would not have reached 100 million euros and their management more consistent and cautious," admits the market official.

The most important responsibilities, however, lie with the business administrations themselves. They did not recognize the changing environment in a timely manner, and in particular, when the difficult days of the crisis began, they did not sufficiently support their businesses. Investments after 2010 were almost negligible, while staff cuts were very small compared to the downturn.

Few and strong players in the new casino market

The new landscape in the dawn casino market will be completely different from today's. The market formed today, by all indications, will include fewer but better players. In addition, visitors to the modern temples of the "goddess of fortune" will have the characteristics of early Greek casino players: "deep pockets" and high demands on the experience they will be given during their stay.

"The" gambling "of casinos will be replaced by" entertainment "," admits an experienced marketer. He cites the experience of the American market, which has already been transformed in this direction. The new casino customer seeks not just luck, but the overall experience, part of which may be rolling the dice, pulling a paper, and so on. "Even in Las Vegas, only 25% of casino revenue comes from gambling today," experts say, noting that Greek businesses must do the same as those who survive. Most of them nowadays do not even have a website in languages ​​other than Greek. This is despite the fact that they are based in destinations which are considered to be exclusively tourist (eg Corfu, Rhodes). Most businesses continue to target a limited audience in the country, who may be addicted to gambling.

However, the modern casino market should also have some elitist and / or cosmopolitan characteristics, similar to those of the pre-90s period. This is expected to happen both in the case of the Greek casino but also in the Parnitha casino relocation. The two investors concerned will invest hundreds of millions of euros to attract celebrities with high financial standing, many of whom will not come from Greece, etc. But this, as market people say, does not mean that the less privileged Greeks will not test their strengths. The latter will compete with their luck on the Internet and its points of sale OPAP. On the contrary, in the new casinos to be created in Attica, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini, etc., it is estimated that Greeks and foreigners will find refuge with high wallets and high demands.

The crisis of the past decade has created a small army of casino visitors, with limited income mainly directed to so-called "slot machines" (VLTs). This overcrowding is attributed to the fact that these games allow for higher recycling of profits. This means that the player plays more time with less money. The casino, however, earns less.

Unlike traditional table games (roulette, black jack etc.), where the risk is higher for the players, the traffic is low. According to the EYEP, roulette turnover in the period 2008-2017 was reduced by 75%, black jack tables by 73% and poker tables by 48%. In "fruit" the turnover was reduced by only 20%. Now, 70% of turnover is realized on these machines with 2017 exceeding € 1,12 billion, totaling € 1,58 billion.

Much of that market is now moving on Opap Play that (geographically) is more accessible. In this sense, the creation of Opap Play is transforming the casino market today radically. In practice, its stores OPAP were the casino's "entry" ticket into the urban fabric of cities, as their operation rendered them out of town unnecessarily for the sake of protecting the public. The casino of Elliniko, which will be built sometime in the future, contributed to the same direction. Hellenic, since the preferred investor (Lamda Development) has made the creation of casinos a prime requirement, is the third factor that is transforming this market in our country. This casino not only directs the rest to the cities, but also leads to rationalization of the market.
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