Greek tradition requires that this evening Greeks have to try their luck by playing poker or Black Jack, so that the New Year will have a good start. For this particular tradition, the rules of the game and the dangers of addiction talks about Mr. Yannis Vlahatis. According to the assessment of Mr Vlahatis the first day of New Year is expected to bring are over 9 000 casino visitors. Mr. Yannis Vlahatis works at the casino in Loutraki since 2005 and is responsible for the PR and program management for corporate social responsibility.
Tell me where is the origin of this Greek habit to play poker and to gamble during the New Year's Eve and the days around New Year?
This is not a habit but a tradition. From archaeological excavations, which were made in Greece and abroad, but especially in Greece, we find that the Greeks dealt with fate and fortune since at least 6 000 BC. It is not an accident that in ancient times there was a goddess Tihe (of chance and fate)—in other words they have dedicated one of their goddess to chance and many people believed in fate. So you can say that for centuries there is a specific connection between fate and Greeks. During the holidays there is a tradition that connects greeting the New Year and gambling and visits to the casinos. So it is especially popular among the people to be entertained by gambling. And usually when going to play Greeks say “let next year start good with this”.
Are there other days during the year when the casino visitors increase more than usual?
During the Christmas holidays and around Epiphany we have many visitors. But in general I can tell you that many Greeks now routinely entertain themselves by going to the casino and gambling. The Loutraki casino is a luxurious resort for entertainment and fun time - located in an area of 5000 square meters, it has a five-star hotel with 260 rooms and 25 suits, five luxury restaurants, a modern health spa center, indoor and outdoor pools. Loutraki is a modern casino resort located on the best beach - the beach of Loutraki and therefore attracts customers throughout the year from Greece and abroad.
Which are the most preferred games in the casino?
The most preferred games are the roulettes and the slot machines.
Is there a specific strategy a player must follow in order to win or at least not to lose?
Of course, this is the strategy to be insured—in other words, we have gone to the casino to have fun and beforehand we have decided what amount we will play with. And we should never forget that we are playing with the money we have in abundance, but not with the ones we need. This is the key to be able to leave the casino and to have had a good play while fun. This applies to all visitors and is a general rule. To those who leave with a profit we wish to utilize the well-earned and to the ones who have had bad luck in the game we wish them good luck next time.
Are there games that are preferred by women and others by men?
Based on research women like mostly the slot machines and men like playing cards and roulettes.
How often do you clients play and how much money do they usually spend?
Based on our research in Loutraki a customer comes between three and four times per year. And the amount played is between €800 and €1000.
In gambling what is the ratio between luck and strategy?
It depends on the nature of each player. Not all casino visitors are players - some come to have fun, others come to spend their free time in a different environment, others to enjoy the atmosphere of a luxurious entertainment and the fourth are the real players.
Each visitor has a strategy so that we cannot generalize. But what we want is for all our guests to enjoy the game, have fun and finally when they leave to have the feeling that they have a nice time.
Do you gamble?
According to official Loutraki casino laws all staff members are forbidden to play. But I quite often visit other casinos in Greece and abroad. Personally, I like Roulette and Black Jack the most.
How would you advise your children if they tell you that they are going to spend the night in a casino?
First, in Greece, children must be over 23 years old in order to be allowed in a casino. The legislature has pointed out a very good mature age. What I will advise them is to enjoy spending a pre-decided amount and not spend more than they can afford. Finally, they should always remember that gambling is played for fun and it is nothing more than just a game.
Did the economic crisis affect the players or the casino?
The crisis we are facing is global, but in Greece we also have fiscal crisis, which has a much wider effect on us than the global one. We are in the heart of the crisis. The situation is difficult. Overall, the gambling sector in Greece is affected and hence the casinos. The Loutraki casino is very big - in 2008 we had 1 250 000 visitors, so you can imagine that they are from all social strata and categories. Obviously if the crisis has affected the entire economy, it has affected all people as well. What we noticed is that people choose to come to the casino, but they spend less than last year.
What can Greek casinos envy from the Las Vegas ones?
Their fame. And second, the fact that the American government knew that the gambling industry is the most lucrative source for state coffers. Third - U.S. legislature is very strict but very flexible and it protects the sector because it scores higher revenue in state coffers. And the American model, which turned Las Vegas into an adult entertainment city, is a successful model. For these things we, who deal with gambling in its organized form, envy them.
What can they be envious about?
Wherever we go there or they come to visit us, they ask us how we cope in such a tight bureaucratic environment such as Greece. Second - when they learn that for everything we need a permit from the state - even if you move a chair or a table in the casino we need ministerial decision. What they are jealous about is our geographic position. We are a Mediterranean country on the shores of the Aegean Sea and the casino is located on a large and beautiful beach of Gulf of Corinth. In short, they can be jealous because we are a resort-casino, and they are an entertainment city among the desert.
Is there some kind of ban for people addicted to gambling?
From the first day the casino opened its doors, we have been applying the rules, which apply throughout the world and especially in America. When someone has felt that they no longer play for pleasure, but the game has become a danger to them and are addicted, then they may request in writing from the casino to be prohibited from entering the casino. This is called a self-ban measure for entering the casino.
Have you had such cases?
Many. Again I will say that last year we had 1.250 million visitors. You can imagine that among them there are people who are at risk of addiction to gambling. We are aware that the risk goes hand in hand with the existence of gambling. Therefore, since 1997 - two years after the opening of the casino, our company is financing and has created a special program for psychological and psychiatric support for those of our customers, visitors or their friends and relatives who are in need. Under this program 24 hour direct telephone, which offers competent information and provides psychological help. Moreover, the program offers a therapy course and psychological support from professionals to those who want it. We believe that our work related to gambling requires us to respect our profession, but most importantly we must be able to foresee the negative consequences to which it might lead. We believe that this program covers the needs of our customers and we constantly communicate with the Center for Inter-Cultural Psychiatry, which supports the telephone line and offers treatments so that we can adapt the Center's activities, depending on customer needs. From the data center, we cannot know if the customers are ours or people who play pro-at, or are addicted to illegal betting. Because in Greece widespread are also illegal gambling in clubs for playing cards, in neighborhood cafes or in slot machines clubs in every neighborhood, and also now the online gambling. We are familiar with the negative consequences, this is why we have assumed our responsibility. We have also trained our personnel to distinguish those who may be addicted and to take them away from the game room and direct them to the scientific center to help, so that they can cope with the likely problems. We follow the rule and we do not want fun to become a hazard.
Do you have clients from Balkan countries and from which countries are the most often visitors?
In 2008, the Loutraki casino was visited by 28 000 people, and this year their number increased by 13% and exceeded 31 000 people from the Balkan countries. Most of them come from countries such as Turkey and Albania, and then rank Romania and Bulgaria.