The RGA warns Greek Privatisation Body of more legal challenges that may affect the sale of OPAP

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) has written to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), Deutsche Bank and the Hellenic Bank to notify them of further legal complaints to the European Commission concerning Greece’s unfair and unworkable internet betting and gaming laws. There are now two complaints outstanding with further complaints in preparation. There is also an ongoing action in the Greek courts. These complaints add further uncertainty to the value of the shares in OPAP that the HRADF is trying to sell.

In August 2011 the Greek government passed gambling legislation which introduced a licensing regime for some forms of online gambling in Greece. A number of the RGA’s members are active in the Greek online market and are impacted by the new law and regulations in a detrimental manner.

The new law was expected to open a new licensing regime for online betting and gaming. Instead only a few companies asked for “interim licenses” and it is understood that the tax collected is negligible. This is in complete contrast to other European countries like Denmark and Spain who in 2012 opened proper licensed markets to which the majority of large international operators applied. Unlike Greece, those countries are both properly protecting their players and collecting substantial amounts of tax.

To make the matter worse, OPAP are now retroactively claiming that they have an online monopoly on the majority of products. To protect this monopoly the Greek Gaming Commission have announced enforcement measures aimed at Operators, Internet Service Providers, Media companies, Payment/Credit Institutions and even the consumers that are effective themselves. This approach is completely contrast to other European countries that introduce sensible legislation and regulation, actually follow through with it, properly notify the EU, and then launch action against people who do not comply.

There can be no other conclusion that this is a misguided attempt to ignore EU principles of law in order to boost the value of the 34% of OPAP. This approach is not sustainable.

Clive Hawkswood said: _“We have approached HRADF because they live in the real international world and press reports would indicate that they may be a voice of reason on this debate. It is quite remarkable that other countries in Europe have adopted proper processes that conform to EU law and result in substantial tax collection for the State.
It really is not necessary to try and claim online monopolies that do not exist and could never be properly enforced. We call on the HRADF to help resolve what would be very natural concerns from the potential bidders, to help get the December 5th date postponed and to work with the industry and the EU to reach a sensible outcome for all”._