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 five 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 percent shareholding.
Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA said: “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.” Ends For further information or comment please contact: Sue Rossiter RGA Director of Policy and Projects Tel: +44 (0) 20 3531243 Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU): Article 56 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU states that restrictions on ‘freedom to provide services’ within the Union are prohibited in respect of nationals of Member States who are established in a State other than that of the person for whom the services are intended.
Any discrimination concerning the provision of services on the basis of nationality is prohibited directly by this Article. About the RGA: The RGA is the largest online gambling trade association in the world representing the largest licensed and stock market-listed remote gambling operators and software providers (see www.RGA.eu.com). The organisation provides the remote gambling industry with a single voice on all issues of importance to regulators, legislators and key decision makers around the world. Further information and a full list of members can be found at www.RGA.eu.com.