The Greek gambling monopoly OPAP wasted no time this week in actioning a threat by its CEO to take legal action against Stanleybet's new betting shops in the country. Barely a week after the shop doors were opened the local police raided the premises, arrested two employees and confiscated gambling machines and equipment, according to Dow Jones news reports.

Earlier this month OPAP Chief Executive Christos Hadjiemmanuil told 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.

Police officials confirmed that the raids were carried out after a complaint was received from OPAP that the new StanleyBet operations were conducted illegal betting, without a permit from the appropriate authorities and with the goal of monetary gain at the expense of the Greek state.

StanleyBet International has defended its right as a company in a European Union nation to offer gambling services without hindrance to the citizens of another EU nation, and will undoubtedly contest the issue. The organisation has substantial resources, with over 1 400 outlets in Belgium, Croatia, Romania and Poland.

When it set up the betting shops, a Stanleybet statement said: "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."

OPAP will be no pushover - the group operates some 5 500 outlets in Greece and Cyprus which produced sales of Euro 5 billion last year.

Dow Jones reports that Greece is a lucrative gambling market, with Greeks forking out several billion Euros a year on soccer bets and lotteries, in casinos and at the racetrack.

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