The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) filed a joint complaint with the European Commission addressing restriction of the online gambling market in Greece, therefore failing to comply with EU law.
The regulations recently brought about by the Greek State allow the internet blocking relying on a blacklist of unlicensed gambling operators which the associations say is in direct violation of Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and of the fundamental right to give and receive information.
The OPAP’s offline and online monopoly of gambling and betting rights, exclusively granted to it until 2020 for online sports betting, and other aspects of online gambling (i.e. poker and casino gaming) until 2030, is also seen as a wrongdoing.
An additional problem is the repealing of temporary licences already applied for by commercial gambling operators and granted by the Hellenic Gambling Commission (HGC), in the expectation that full licences could be applied for at a later date. However, despite the fact that the Gambling Act clearly allows online gambling, since its adoption on 5 August 2011, no full online gambling licenses have been granted or any licensing provisions announced.
What is more, the draft regulations will lead the HGC to publish a blacklist containing the names of all online gambling websites which are accessible in Greece, meaning that operators with the EU licences are effectively prevented from operating in Greece.
In a joint press release RGA and EGBA said: "Before the new technical regulations can come into effect there has to be time for the European Commission to look at the proposals and for complaints to be assessed, this is the “standstill period”. The HGC has announced that it will start internet blocking of unlicensed websites the day after the closure of the “standstill period”."
Reviewing online gambling regimes across Europe, the EC is considering the compatibility of the Greek system with the Treaty, so: "This is an opportunity for the Commission to ensure that citizens and companies get the full benefit of an open, secure and competitive online gambling market in Greece," the statement added.
Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of EGBA, claims: “Greece and its gambling monopoly OPAP have a long history of non compliance with EU law as recalled by the CJEU in January 2013. The latest notification to the European Commission contains a range of amendments, which are clearly anti-competitive and protectionist. It is high time for the Commission to act and take firm action against Greece.”
AS the RGA CEO Clive Hawkswood opined: “The actions of the Greek State in first opening up and then closing down the online gambling market suggests that they are making decisions in the interests of OPAP rather than the citizens of Greece. Where a regime is contrary to the provision of the Treaties, challenges are unfortunately necessary and unavoidable. We look to the EC to enforce those provisions in relation to gambling, as the European Parliament has recently requested.”