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Offers for the sports lottery OPAP are expected by 19 October

01 October 2012 / 18:10:16  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The Greek government is ready to sell the profitable sports lottery OPAP in a short time. According to the announcement of the privatization agency, the candidates for its purchase will have to express their interests by 19 October. The text makes it clear that the Greek government is preparing to sell 33% of its 34% shareholding in the lottery. The percentage announced for sale originally was 29%.

The news caused a stir among the employees in the lottery who are preparing to launch protest actions. Today, the leader of the main opposition party SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras visited the headquarters of OPAP and met with union representatives and employees of the public company.

In his speech to them, he said that through the sale of the lottery, the government was seeking only to satisfy its image and big business interests. According to Alexis Tsipras, "Forced reduction of the exchange value of the company has been ongoing for some time in order for it to be sold on the cheap."

The leader of SYRIZA criticized the government's decision, according to which the taxation of every euro earned from the lottery games will be effective from 1 January 2013 onwards. "This will make the people turn to illegal gambling and will lead to a reduction in the turnover and profits of OPAP." Here he argued that tax-exempt prizes reach 400 euro in most European countries.

Alexis Tsipras said that his party was not against privatization only for ideological reasons. "The criminal method used for the sale of the Agricultural bank and Postbank applies here too. The sale of public property is outrageous. This is money of the Greek people and nobody gives them the right to play with it."

SYRIZA’s leader said that the privatization of OPAP would change the working conditions for the worse and urged the "employees, owners of lotto stations and the entire Greek society" to protest against the privatization of the lottery.

"We will be with you, but if you yourself do not resist, no one else will appear here as a saviour. Protests must be organized," he said to the about 100 employees who were listening to him.

"We believe the privatization will have to be broken. The benefits to the Greek society will be zero compared with the opportunities for development. Surveys of foreign institutes indicate that the turnover of OPAP could reach 47 billion euro per year. The government wants to sell OPAP at a very low price - about 500 million euro at a time when the annual turnover is close to 5 billion euro, and the taxes the state received from the entire consortium in 2011 amounted to 700 million euro," the chairman of the union of employees in OPAP’s subsidiary company for services Christos Kakouratos told GRReporter. He expressed his concern that privatization would lead to layoffs and wage cuts.

According to George Samios, president of the association of owners of lotto stations in Attica, the sale of OPAP will inevitably "leave in the street" many more than five thousand colleagues around Greece. "Gambling is a very sensitive social issue. It leads to addiction much stronger than that of drugs and alcohol and therefore, should be under full control. Which private owner will be interested in that when his sole purpose will be to increase his profits?" His opinion is that OPAP is a very strong and competitive company and no competitor in the Greek market would have any chance against it. "The only way to cope with this is to break OPAP into many pieces. This has already begun with the reduction of its stock value. Within just six sessions, it lost over half of its stock value."

He said the owners of lotto stations would participate in the protests against "the sale of OPAP, because the danger of becoming unemployed in half a year is more than real."




After the visit of SYRIZA’s leader, the employees in the lottery held a general meeting without making it clear when and how their protests will take place.



Tags: PoliticsEconomyPrivatizationSports lottery OPAPAlexis TsiprasSYRIZAProtest actions
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