In 2016 when Damian Cope joined OPAP as CEO – bringing to the table two decades of experience in various gaming jurisdictions – he set out a clear vision of what the Greek betting and lottery company should become: “a world class gaming entertainment organisation”. Two years on, Cope’s priorities are not only the core of the company’s driving strategy – through its 2020 Vision – they are well on their way to becoming a reality.
For the past six decades, OPAP, the Greek gaming and lottery company, and Europe’s 5th largest gaming firm, has been a vital establishment for the country. OPAP has also been a trusted employer, currently having about 1,400 employees – of which approximately 300 were hired last year. Indirectly, however, the company estimates between 35,000 and 40,000 people have jobs as a result of OPAP’s business.
On the technological side, OPAP has been engaged in a plethora of enhancements since 2016. In line with the organisation’s 2020 Vision, OPAP has been investing substantial funds and personnel to embrace the global technological transformation. Advancements include the introduction of virtual products, self-service betting terminals (SSBTs), and the roll out of new video lottery terminals (VLTs).
By the end of last year, OPAP had set up 10,000 VLTs across gaming halls and OPAP stores. “Our intention by the end of 2018 is to have up to around 19,000 machines deployed in the Greek market”, stated OPAP’s CEO.
In addition to providing customers with a modern product, VLTs have an even larger impact: helping to address the significant illegal market that exists in this area today. “The illegal market is really very large indeed,” explained Cope, adding that it is both a problem for consumer protection, and lost tax revenues for the government.
“Like any large organisation, the role of technology is critical”, commented Cope, explaining that OPAP’s technology investment programme – amounting to around 100 million euros – is aimed at both software and hardware development, along with an overall strategic change.
“Over the last two years, the transformation has involved the replacement of around 50,000 different devices. Everything from a set-top box, to a self-service betting terminal, to a point-of- sale-till, it’s really been quite an enormous process (…). Pretty much every piece of technology that you see in an OPAP store today has been replaced, and we know it sets the foundation for a much more attractive environment for customers”, explained Cope.
A large part of OPAP’s technological transformation programme concerns its online business. In this framework, OPAP is also relaunching pamestoixima.gr, its online and mobile sports betting platform. This new platform offers highly improved and competitive odds, as well as an upgraded gaming experience.
With a network of approximately 4,000 shops across the country, along with the more than 300 gaming halls, which have already been established, the distribution of OPAP stores is larger than that of any retailer in the market.
With this spread and the trust the OPAP brand enjoys, the company in taking on a new innovative venture, via its subsidiary, Tora Wallet, which was recently granted an e-money license from the Bank of Greece. This allows the customers of OPAP stores to have access to a number of e-money services, such as making payments to friends and families – both within Greece and internationally – with the added option of paying utility bills, for example.
“We believe that our shops, with the assistance of this e-money licence, can become even more of a community centre than they already are today,” Cope said.
Reaping the Benefits
All of OPAP’s innovation is proving fruitful for the community and the organisation. OPAP’s first-quarter revenue for 2018, was up by more than 5 per cent year-on-year, totalling over 377 million euros. At the same time, OPAP pays around 650 million euros in taxes annually to the Greek government. This is in addition to its corporate and social responsibility initiatives, that give back to Greek society in sports, health, business, and other areas.
“2018 is the 60th anniversary of OPAP’s establishment, and we’re very proud of that anniversary,” declared OPAP CEO Damian Cope. “Throughout the history of the organisation, we’ve always been a very significant organisation within society in Greece.”
The OPAP Forward programme, for example, assists strong, young companies to grow fast, and provide employment opportunities. The programme, which is now in its second year, supports 40 small and medium-sized enterprises in fields as diverse as tourism, technology, and food and beverages. It has led to more than 3,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The renovation of two children’s hospitals in Athens, is another OPAP initiative that is close to the company’s heart. The project is to upgrade the Hospital Nursing Units and Outpatient Clinics at Aghia Sophia and Panagiotis & Aglaia Kyriakou hospitals. It is aimed at sensitising and engaging the general public, to the life-saving work that the hospitals are doing.
“We are over halfway through that project now. We expect to conclude that over the next two or three years, and it’s something that everyone associated with OPAP is very proud of indeed”.
Last year, OPAP received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This year, OPAP received the “Best Workplaces” distinction from Great Place to Work-Hellas.
“I take my role as the CEO of OPAP very seriously in terms of the obligation we have to Greek society, and we try and help in lots of different ways, and we will continue well into the future,” Cope said with sincerity.