ATHENS – With Europe’s largest casino being built on nearby Cyprus – where temporary casinos are luring big crowds – Greece’s casino sector is struggling even as the government plans to expand them to the tourist islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Crete.
The number of visitors, revenue and profits fell in the first half of 2018, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said, with the sector also being hard hit from past arrears and some unable to catch up on back pay to workers or meet social security and tax obligations.
There were 1.333 million visitors to casinos in the first six months, down from 1.364 million in the same period for 2017, a drop of 2.26 percent.
The “total casino drop”, the revenue benchmark used in the gaming industry, was 740.5 million euros ($845.84 million,) falling from 754.2 million euros ($861.48 million) in the first half of 2017, a decrease of 1.81 percent.
In terms of the “total casino win” figure, the total was 116.1 million euros ($132.62 million,) down from 120 million euros ($137.07 million,) down 3.23 percent.
Mont Parnes’ Regency had a slight increase in visitors while Thessaloniki’s Hyatt Regency was up by 8.13 percent and Corfu was up by 1.9 percent but Halkidiki prefecture’s Porto Carras casino plunged 43.3 percent and another in Rio, outside Patras, was off 18.29 percent and a 12.2 percent drop for the debt-troubled resort city of Loutraki, west of Athens.
Late last year, gaming licenses for Santorini, Mykonos and Crete were put into a draft bill tabled in Parliament, while another six casinos already in operation would be allowed to move, including the only one around Athens, the Hyatt Regency-run Mont Parnes atop Mt. Parnitha.
The bill would also allow the relocation of casinos in Thessaloniki, Loutraki, Rio (outside the western port city of Patras), Alexandroupolis, in the extreme northeast, and Florina, close to the border with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
A government report said the goal, besides bringing in cold cash, would be to tie gambling to tourists, to reduce the state’s share in licensed casinos’ gross profits, to impose a unified coefficient for the state’s stake in such concessions and to promote the “casino resort” model, one linked to shopping and hotels.
A casino is also planned for the long-delayed development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport site on Athens’ coast but major competition is looking in the form of a 550-million euro ($628.4 million) casino to be built on Cyprus by Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho.
Under the draft bill, the semi-autonomous Hellenic Gaming Commission is given greater jurisdiction and acquires a decisive role in licensing and regulating casinos in the country.