The Greek government has submitted new gambling regulations to the European Commission that provide a near-absolute monopoly for state-sponsored operator OPAP.
The rules would abolish certain forms of internet gambling, such as numbers-based games, and award that concession, together with sports betting, to OPAP through 2020.
The plan will remain under review for four months, and then is expected to be passed into law.
Greece holds a 34 percent stake in OPAP, and is trying to sell 33 percent of the company as part of a shedding of public assets required under the bailout plan concluded with the European Union.
However, once again, the Remote Gambling Association is challenging the European Commission over the Greek government’s support of the OPAP gaming monopoly.
Greece has notified the EC that it will amend its existing gambling law, extending OPAP’s land-based gaming dominance to online operations. These operations include not only sports betting but also other gambling products such as casino games and poker.
In 2000, the Hellenic Republic granted OPAP the exclusive right to operate and manage 11 numerical lottery and sports betting games in Greece. Moreover, the company was granted the exclusive license for the operation of 35,000 VLTs, of which 16,500 will be operated by OPAP itself, while concessionaires that will be selected for that purpose will operate the remaining VLTs.
The most recent move into online gaming is seen as an attempt to protect the share price of OPAP in the run-up to the privatization of the remaining OPAP shares. “Unfortunately, they have to distort the market and contravene European law to do so,” stated the RGA.
This arrangement has caused outrage among the European online gaming community, as the Greek government continues to flout European law by granting the company a monopoly. The European Court of Judgment recently ruled that OPAP’s offline monopoly was illegal. Now that it is trying to extend this condition to online games, the RGA is asking the EU to intervene.
“Having received notification that the Greek government intends to extend what has already been declared an illegal monopoly to online gambling products, the ball is in the commission’s court,” said Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the RGA. “The Greek government has granted an exclusive right to OPAP, and that infringes Article 56 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. As defenders of the treaty we believe that the commission must act now to prevent member states from undermining it.”