International gambling companies apply for Greek online monopoly rights

Individual members of the Remote Gambling Association have applied to the Greek Ministry of Finance and the Greek Gambling Commission for the concession to run the online gambling monopoly.

Over the past two years the Greek Government has failed to implement its own laws to open up the online gambling market. The Greek Gambling Act allows for the licensing of online gambling operators but Ministerial Decisions and administrative measures undertaken prevent any operator other than OPAP from being granted a full licence. In effect the Government has granted OPAP a monopoly to provide online gambling in Greece without express legal approval and without any competitive tendering. This infringes Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Members of the RGA believe the granting of the monopoly to OPAP is illegal and note:

  • OPAP‘s land-based monopoly is being disputed at both EU and national levels
  • the concession-granting authority in relation to the award of a specific concession must comply with the fundamental rules of EU Treaties
  • Consistent CJEU case law calls for a public and transparent award of gambling concessions
  • The treaty does not allow a public authority to award an exclusive right without putting it out to competition

In the absence of a proper tendering process two members of the RGA have submitted applications to the Greek State, the Minister of Finance and the Hellenic Gaming Commission for a licence to provide online gaming services (games of chance over the internet) for a period of 5 years.

The Remote Gambling Association has consistently stated that that the motivation for not offering licences for online gambling has nothing to do with concerns about consumer protection but is to ensure that from the privatisation of OPAP the Greek government gets the highest possible price for its 33% shareholding.

Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA said today: “The Greek Government is being very short sighted. In granting OPAP an online monopoly without complying with the Treaty the Government may have to compensate companies who had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to apply for the concession. They may also have to refund investors in OPAP who had been led to believe that OPAP did have a monopoly. But most importantly the Greek government is denying itself tax income from established online operators that would bring in millions of EUROs in taxation if they could be licensed in Greece.

In the absence of constructive progress to introduce an open, transparent and fair online gambling regime, our members have made it clear that the RGA should use all efforts at its disposal including legal challenges to the EU and the Greek courts, lobbying and public relations in order to get to a legal, clear, workable and fair resolution.”