Monday, November 28,2011 : Challenging Greek protectionist law
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), who between them represent the majority of the largest European remote gambling operators, have confirmed the filing of a complaint with the European Commission on the newly adopted Greek online gambling law.
The law was adopted by the Greek Government despite the European Commission's criticism on the anti-competitive and restrictive nature of the country's first draft submitted in June this year.
The complaint tackles "a range of non-EU compliant barriers to new market entrants", said a joint statement from the EGBA and RGA as outlined below:
Operators in the Greek online gambling market would be required to have a permanent base in Greece, are limited to financial transactions through Greek banks and must impose a higher age-limit restriction online than at terrestrial establishments.
Operators currently operating in Greece may potentially have to pay gambling taxes on any revenues earned from Greece-based customers retroactively from the 1 January 2010 until the new licences have been awarded. This provision is equivalent to a market entry fee that will have to be paid by all of the operators which are currently unable to be licensed in Greece.
In addition, the EGBA and RGA are particularly concerned about the new tax regime stating:
The Greek Government has decided to grant OPAP, the incumbent monopoly gambling operator for offline games, an extension of its existing licence for an additional 10 years from 2020 to 2030 in a wholly uncompetitive and non-transparent fashion.
OPAP currently pays no gambling tax on its offline activities, whereas online operators will be required to pay 30 percent GGR. This unjustified differentiation in tax liabilities is subject to a separate State aid challenge which has been lodged with the European Commission.
Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of EGBA comments: “Commissioner Barnier recently confirmed to the European Parliament that the he would fulfill his responsibilities seriously in assessing the compliance of Member States gambling legalization with EU law.
"Allowing Greece to proceed with this legalization unchallenged would represent an abject failure of those responsibilities. We trust the Commissioner will urgently investigate our compliant against Greece and take action accordingly against Greece as well as on several other pending complaints.”
Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA added: “We have welcomed the opening of the Greek online gambling market as a positive step. However, it is paramount that any new regime is conducted in a fair and transparent fashion which follows EU rules. Where a regime is contrary to the provision of the Treaties, challenges are unfortunately necessary and unavoidable.
"We therefore look to the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, to enforce those provisions in relation to gambling, as the European Parliament has recently requested.”