OPAP’s exclusive rights breach EU law

The Court of Justice of the EU delivered today its ruling in the Stanleybet, William Hill & Sportingbet case (Joined Cases C-186/11, C-209/11), which was referred by the Greek Council of State in the context of legal challenges initiated by the three operators against the Greek Government. In its judgment, which echoes the opinion of the Advocate-General, the Court reminded Greece of its obligation to consistency with the objectives pursued by its own legislation. Although it is for the national judge to make the final assessment, the EU Court held that the Greek gaming legislation, which granted certain exclusive gambling rights to OPAP and allowed for an expansion of its offerings, went beyond what was necessary to attain the objectives stated, and should therefore be deemed not compliant with EU law.

The Greek legislation provided that the public authorities could grant a single operator, in the form of a public limited company, the right to organise and operate games of chance. It also allowed the public entity to advertise freely and expand its services, including into other countries. The legislation was supposedly designed to combat criminality by exercising control over the single operator.

In today’s Judgement, the Court held that the legislation enacted to justify OPAP’s expansion and the public promotion of its products went far beyond what is necessary in order to channel consumers towards the controlled provision of gambling services. The Court agrees with the opinion of the Advocate General that OPAP is not subject to the strict control of the public authorities and hence the Greek monopoly does not satisfy the requirements of CJEU case law.

Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA, said: “Although it is referring to the old legislation, we welcome the Judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU as it clearly shows that the expansion of OPAP’s activities is not EU-compliant. It therefore substantiates further our claim that the new extension of OPAP’s exclusive rights to certain types of online games breaches EU law. We hope that this ruling will spur the Greek Authorities into action and to bring their legislation into line with EU regulations. The Court today has come out strongly against Greece, and we hope that this will in turn be a signal to other Member States that compliance with EU law is expected of them.”

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