High stakes: Greek gambling industry on the rebound

Greeks spent €5.9 billion on betting games last year, according to the Greek Gaming Industry (EEEP), with 2014 marking the first year since 2009 in which the country's gambling industry rebounded.

According to a report in Kathimerini newspaper, the level of spending on games of chance, such as those played at casinos or bets placed at horse-races, rose by 9% from the previous year.

Greek gamblers were also willing to take greater risks with the amount they played with, reaching an average of €187 per individual debt, compared with €172 in 2013.

According to the report, €3.8 billion of the total €5.9 billion went to the gaming firm OPAP - the Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics - Europe's biggest betting firm and the only firm in Greece which provides numerical lottery and sports betting games in Greece. It is also the country's biggest sports sponsor.

Last month, the owner of Greece's leading football club, Olympiakos, and 15 other referees and Greek Football Federation officials were charged by prosecutors for alleged match-fixing. Evangelos Marinakis, the Greek shipping magnate and owner of Olympiakos, could face 10 years in prison if found guilty.

A further €500m went to its subsidiary Hellenic Lotteries which generated revenue of €252m in the first nine months of 2014, with €88.4m of this generated through scratch cards.

Turnover for OPAP and Hellenic Lotteries together represented 72% of the Greek gaming market. Casinos took 27% and 1% went to the Horse Racing Organisation of Greece (ODIE).

The report estimates that the rebound in games of chance also earned the Greek state €525 million in taxes in 2014.

Last year it was reported that Greeks were placing illegal bets worth €5 billion a year. The then general secretary for transparency, Giorgos Sourlas, said that illegal betting operations were "harming the national economy and acting as a mechanism for laundering ill-gotten gains".

According to the UK's Office for National Statistics, the average household in the UK spent £166 (€225) on gambling during 2013, a figure up 50p from the year before. More than £13 (€17.7) billion was gambled by the poorest quarter of England's population, £470 (€638) million of which was lost.