Defining OPAP

3 May 2005

Sometimes one reads information on this industry without understanding what it's all about. This happened to me recently when I read an article in the Reporter, which reported:

According to press reports, the Greek Court Council formed an opinion that OPAP is not a public company. This opinion was given after a request by OPAP. This finding allows OPAP to provide money to one of its subsidiaries, OPAP Services, through Kino but according to press reports, it raises questions regarding the company's ability to protect its monopolistic status. Stanleybet International has already filed against OPAP's monopoly, and the Court Council's ruling could favor its case.

OPAP, Europe's biggest betting company by market value, is not a public company?

OPAP S.A. is quoted on the Athens stock exchange, and the Greek government will sell 17 percent of its shares as part of the second part of a privatization scheme.

What's going on here?

I contacted Aikaterini Tzika, head of IR department for OPAP S.A. and asked him whether he could give the correct information, and he responded with the following statement:

In reply to your question regarding the eventual loss of the exclusive right of OPAP S.A. to organize, conduct, operate and manage its games according to the Article 27 of law 2843/2000, the company proceeds to the below clarifications in order to provide complete information:

1. OPAP S.A. points out that the Ministers of Culture and Sports of E.C.--excepting the United Kingdom where the market is liberalized from the beginning--have recently (December 2004) expressed their common position supporting the preservation of the exception regarding the operation of games of chance from the free movement of services within the E.C.

Moreover, they retain their status within the borders of every country, as the social effects that run the scope of organizations of such kind are universally recognized. Besides, OPAP S.A. has never taken cognizance of any further evidence or gravamen, which would provoke the slightest inkling of the turnabout of the present status. On the contrary, the company based on the subordinate data takes action with the sole regard to defend the interests of its shareholders and to contribute to social, cultural and athletic beneficiaries, facts that traditionally accompany our company and constitute an aid of a vast acceptance in the Greek society.

2. Additionally, we would like to clarify that the activation of our company in the gaming market comes under the 20th-year Exclusive Permission of Operation which has been contracted in 2000 between the Greek State and OPAP S.A. for the price of 323 million euros and according to the 15-12-2000 convention between the Greek state and OPAP S.A. with the application of Article 27 of Law 2843/2000 and the amendment, our company preserves the right of first refusal for every new game and the right to renew the agreement after the completion of the present agreement.

3. According to the known Piergiorgio Gambelli case in Italy, the European Court of Justice has issued a decision on the preliminary ruling of the Italian Court that, "It is up to the applying court to examine if such a regulation, considering the specific details of its application, corresponds to the causes that can justify it and if the imposed restrictions are not disproportionate to these causes."

4. Concerning the submitted draft of contract between OPAP SA and its subsidiary OPAP Services to the Audit Court for the planned audit of legitimacy, according to law 3060/2002 and the issued act of Body Z, we consider that it has no effect on the above mentioned exclusive right, as it is defined in Article 27 of law 2843/2000 and in the contract dated 15.12.2000 between the Greek State and OPAP SA, and for the additional reason, that the body by its act ruled the specific special contract for the Provision of Services within the scope of the company's commercial activity, while in other cases it has ruled differently.

5. According to Paragraph 1, Article 14 of the law 3336/2005, "The public can dispose to investors, through the Stock Market of Athens, up to sixty six per cent (66%) of each corporate capital of the Societé Anonyme Greek Organization of Football Prognostics (OPAP)."

According to Paragraph 2, Article 14, of the same law, "The State appoints half plus one members of the Board of Directors of OPAP SA for the period of concession by the Greek state of the exclusive right of conduction, management, organization and operation of games mentioned in the exclusive contract dated 15.12.2000 between the Greek state and OPAP, according to Article 27 of Law 2843/2000 (Journal of the Greek Government 219A), or the possible renewal of the contract, according to the terms of this contract."

Combining the above provisions, it is clearly concluded, that the exclusive right of OPAP SA is in force at least until 2020 and for the additional reason that, according to the standard jurisprudence of the ECJ, the provisions of the national law that regulate issues in the sector of games of chance still prevail.

In conclusion, we believe that the above mentioned contribute to instauration of truth.


OPAP is the leading gaming company in Greece and currently holds the sole concession to operate and manage eight existing numerical lottery and sports betting games as well as three new numerical lottery games. It also holds the sole concession to operate and manage any new sports betting games in Greece as well as the right of first refusal to operate and manage any new lottery games permitted by the Hellenic Republic. OPAP is listed on the Athens Exchange and, following the recent public offering of OPAP shares by the Hellenic Republic, has a free float of 49 percent with the remainder held by the Hellenic Republic.

OPAP is operating in Cyprus as well.

The financial year 2004 was another success story for the company. Revenues went up 39.2 percent to €3.17 billion (from €2.28 billion in 2003) and the adjusted EBITDA was a great performer, rising 39.1 percent to €658.9 million (compared to €473.7 million in 2003). Net profit rose 115.1 percent to €505.6 million (compared to €235.1 million in 2003).

Stihima, the company's largest sports betting game, was down by 2.3 percent for the year to €1.61 billion (from €1,65 billion in 2003), largely driven by an 11.5 percent drop in the fourth quarter of 2004. Revenues from OPAP's numerical games amounted to €1.48 billion, up 171.4 percent (compared to €546.6 million), largely driven by the strong performance of the new game Kino, and to a lesser extent Joker.

Smiling shareholders got paid out a dividend in respect of 2004 of €1.48 per share, representing a 102.7 percent increase compared to the dividend paid in respect of 2003.

Who said you can't win in a lottery?

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.