Market research specialists MECN are optimistic on the available markets for online gambling operators in the Balkans, according to the companies latest survey publicity.

Among the research firm's key statistics is an estimate that the market could be worth up to Euro 4.5 billion or more, based on an established gambling culture on sports, a population of over 130 million and the imminent EU membership of several nations in the region.

MECN identified the national markets within the region as Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, and Bulgaria, commenting that in 2007 the region achieved overall gambling turnovers approaching Euro 25 billion. These figures include only gambling operations with local licenses. If the business of foreign online gambling operators were included, the overall market size would be significantly larger.

More than 60 percent of the gambling experts surveyed by MECN believe that the growth potential of the Balkan gambling market has considerable growth potential, with only 3 percent taking a bearish view of low growth. Most experts also believe that a process of liberalisation is in progress, making the advent of legalised and regulated online gambling a real possibility. They also point to the growing Internet and broadband penetration in the region where some 43 million Internet users (average penetration rate of ca. 36 percent) and about 7 million broadband connections have been recorded.

These figures are below the European average, leaving substanial room for growth.

MECN estimates a current online gambling market in the Balkan states worth about Euro 520 million in gross revenues, most of the revenue generated through foreign operators without local licenses. Market size differs significantly from country to country, and Turkey and Greece have the largest markets, although these two nations currently present state monopoly and legal obstacles.

The survey highlights the efforts of some of the online gambling groups pioneering the Balkan markets, naming Sportingbet (currently realising about 5 percent of its business in Bulgaria), and later arrivals such as Bwin and Bet-at-home.com. Localised websites are important and are being presented by companies entering the Balkans market space.

20 to 30 percent od online gambling operators interviewed in the survey are currently planning to increase their investment in the Balkans - primarily in Croatia, Romania, and Greece. The majority of the operators surveyed are currently developing their Balkan market strategy.

Full details of the survey can be viewed at http://www.balkan-gambling.mecn.net

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