Greece May Not Sell Off Gaming Monopoly

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Greece's Minister of Finance created some controversy when he stated that the country may not sell its full stake in OPAP, the state's gaming monopoly.

Evangelos Venizelos stated that Greece plans to meet the commitments it has with the European Union and IMF, but that there could potentially be options to selling off the country's interest in OPAP, which stands at 34%. Greece currently has an agreement with lenders to sell its stake later this year, but Venizelos believes that by holding onto the company he may be able to raise money.

The Minister's plan is to utilize revenues from OPAP to reduce debt, and that the country's recently announced draft gaming law will strengthen the company.

"We have not pledged to sell OPAP; we have pledged that we will have revenues from OPAP (to reduce) the public debt," Venizelos told the Greek parliament. "The cabinet will appraise what is the best way to raise the revenues targeted."

The government plans to raise an estimated €400 million by extending OPAP's license, which runs through 2020. Greece's current stake in OPAP is worth nearly €1.17 billion.

"This premium is very large," Venizelos told lawmakers. "OPAP's value is not only its shares but also the value of exercising its management," The Minister said in reference to the earning potential of OPAP.

Venizelos also stated that Greece was going to hit its EU/IMF financial targets.

"We have a clear target to present €1.7 billion from privatisations by the end of September and €5 billion by the end of the year. If we don't come up with this we won't be credible and put the financial support package at risk,"

OPAP will be operating lottery machines as part of Greece's gambling liberalization. Out of 35,000 machines, OPAP will handle 16,500 itself and contract out the remaining machines to between four and ten operators.