A Greek betting barney appears to be imminent following a statement this week from UK-based fixed odds gambling group Stanleybet International confirming that, in defiance of the Greek monopoly on gambling held by OPAP, it has opened up two betting shops in the country.
OPAP Chief Executive Christos Hadjiemmanuil was quick to react, telling the Reuters news agency that this was the first time that anyone had challenged his firm's monopoly, and that he would be initiating legal action.
Stanleybet's mid-week statement revealed that it had expanded into Greece by opening two stores, despite OPAP claiming exclusive rights on sports betting
and lotteries in the country until 2020 under Greek law.
The company cited EU legislation in making its move, saying: "According to articles 43-49 of the European Charter, Stanleybet International has the right to offer its services to the European Union member states, even if a member state sets monopolistic barriers."
Hadjiemmanuil said that Stanleybet had requested a licence to operate in Greece in 2005 but that a ruling by the country's highest court, the Council of State, was still pending and he was therefore certain that Greece would protect OPAP rights.
OPAP operates some 5 500 outlets in Greece and Cyprus which produced sales of Euro 5 billion last year. Stanleybet currently offers sports bets, mainly on soccer events, in Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Romania and Poland through more than 1 500 outlets.