Back in mid-2002 the Greek government was widely criticised, and even became a laughing stock in some quarters, as a result of its overkill ban on all electronic gaming – including that taking place on private PCs – in the EU member state (see previous InfoPowa reports.) Law 3037/2002 was a politically misguided attempt aimed at putting an end to online gambling; but it ignited international criticism for its over-the-top nature, exacerbated by subsequent police raids on Internet cafes.
This week, there are hopeful signs that this provocative law, which carried punitive measures of 3 months in jail or a Euro 10 000 fine, may be relegated to the scrap heap. The Greek state submitted a draft law proposal to the European Commission for the re-launch of the electronic lottery in the country, following persistent pressure by the Commission to change the 2002 law that banned electronic gaming.
It's been a tortuous road for the legalization. Following the law's enactment, police raids on Internet cafes led to prosecutions, and in one of these a Thessaloniki court threw a spanner in the government works by declaring the wide-ranging ban unconstitutional. Adding to the conflagration, the European Commission expressed an opinion that 3037 may be in conflict with EU law, opening the country to the possibility of European Court of Justice proceedings.
After an attempt to "clarify" some of the more controversial provisions of the law later in 2002, the Greeks made a further move to address an impossible situation by passing an amendment in December 2003. The new law still banned all video games in Internet café, however. For constitutional reasons the law was to all intents and purposes suspended, with no further prosecutions.
In February 2005, the European Parliament referred the Greek ban on online gaming to the European Court of Justice, and Greek media are currently reporting that after extensive drafting, a proposed new law on electronic lotteries, which apparently encompasses the embarrassing bans, has been submitted to the European Commission by the Greek government.
The submission comes at a time when the Greeks are reported to be about to commence discussions with the European Commission concerning another ban – that on companies that seek to compete with the government's general gambling monopoly held through the OPAP organisation. Already the subject of tension with the European Commission, the exclusion from the Greek gambling market of companies in other EU member nations by OPAP could now be the catalyst for a more liberal approach to gambling by the Greeks.