The Illegal gambling market in Greece is growing rapidly, or so it seems according to the latest report from Greece’s gambling regulatory body EEEP (ΕΕΕΠ). Namely, according to the EEEP, in 2016 alone Greek police raided 480 venues running illegal casino games and VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals), which are on their way to becoming Greece’s number one gambling problem.

During the course of 2016, Greek Police made 1,513 arrests in these gambling raids, seizing a total of €160,000 in cash and hundreds of computers that were used as VLT machines. The final weeks of December were particularly fruitful for the authorities, who made 300 arrests in 51 different raids during this time. According to the estimates, the illegal gambling market is now worth €1 billion, with the state losing an approximate €300-400 million in tax revenue from illegal gambling operations.

Video Lottery Terminals have always been popular in Greece and the government even authorized a plan to roll out over 16,500 VLTs through Greek gaming giant OPAP, as well as additional 18,500 through other suppliers. However, the plan was thwarted from the beginning, first by OPAP themselves, who opposed government restrictions on VLTs, and later by at least one casino, who were against the introduction of additional VLTs due to concerns of unlimited access by the population as well as unfair competition.

But while the rollout plan seems stuck in a limbo, the latest figures from the EEEP show that Greek gamblers are getting their VLT fix with or without licensed land-based casinos, thanks to the persistence of illegal operators, one of which has even been raided eight times in three months and still kept its doors open to the public. According to the police, this is only possible due to the fines for running illegal gambling operations being much lower than the long-term profits.