The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) has joined the furore over OPAP’s online gambling monopoly with a letter to the Greek President, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to set out the potential legal actions that could be commenced if the government does not amend the proposed Greek Gambling regime to make it compliant with both EU and domestic Greek law.
The RGA, which represents the majority of the largest European remote gambling operators, is concerned that the Government is granting OPAP, which already has a monopoly over most forms of gambling in Greece, exclusive rights to provide nearly all online gambling products as well. This would be a direct contravention of existing European and Greek legislation. Recent regulations have introduced enforcement measures, including ISP and payments blocking, which would be used to protect the new OPAP monopoly.
Furthermore, the Greek State could be called on to compensate private sector online gambling companies for losses suffered as a result of their unlawful exclusion from the market after the government withdrew the planned licensing regime. This could amount to tens of millions of Euros. Against this background numerous legal measures are available to the association’s Members and these are actively being considered.
These include launching a petition in Greece against OPAP being granted an exclusive right to provide nearly all forms of online gambling, bringing actions before the Greek Courts against the Greek State’s new enforcement measures which breach both Greek and EU law and a competition law complaint to the European Commission focussing on a potential market abuse which could arise from OPAP having been awarded a dominant position in the online sports betting market
The regulations introduce wide-ranging enforcement measures including ISP and payment blocking, fines on banks and internet providers who facilitate gambling and fines on operators who have not been granted a licence. The RGA is concerned that the Greek Government has failed to begin licensing online gambling operators. This was a central measure of the new gambling law passed in August 2011.
Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the RGA said: “We want to work with the Greek Government to ensure that the new regime provides a regulated and competitive, domestic online gambling market that protects the consumer, is viable for the industry, delivers additional tax revenues, and is fully compliant with EU law. However, if the Greek Government and Gaming Commission continue without any legitimate justification to block major European private operators from the online market, then those operators will have no choice but to consider challenging them further in the courts. Members of the RGA expect all operators to be offered a level playing field across Europe. In Greece we have OPAP’s monopoly being protected and extended for a short term gain when in the long run the Greek people would benefit from additional choice and better value if the remote gambling market is opened up.”