Proposed regulatory regime similar to other European nations

The Greek government, perhaps motivated by the nation's severe economic problems and the need to raise tax revenues, is pressing ahead with remarkable speed in its plans to specifically legalise and regulate online gambling .

Making the news pages in the Greek media is the release of the first draft of the proposed legalization, which judging by the reports, offers little that is new, following the general course set by other European nations such as France, Denmark and Italy.

The proposal, which will be the subject of political debate in parliament this (September) month, includes provisions which require providers of sports betting, internet poker or online casino services to residents of Greece acquire licensing, setting up servers and transactional processing in-country and operating under a Greek domain name.

Punitive and precautionary measures envisaged include ISP blocking of foreign and unlicensed websites, and a requirement that Greek financial institutions interrupt any ‘illegal' online gambling transactions with Greek citizens.

Licensing remains open to argument in the Greek parliament, with the draft suggesting licenses of five year duration but leaving the strategic decision to the politicians, which could see a perpetuation of the OPAP monopoly, or a more open and competitive system, albeit with regulatory restrictions.

A target date for implementation of May 2011 is being considered. The gambling market in Greece is estimated to be worth about Euro 5 billion in taxable revenues.

In related news, the Spanish Official State Gazette has published the Betting and Gaming Act of the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands, which establishes a new regulatory framework for Internet gambling .

The new law was passed unanimously by the Parliament of the Canary Islands, repealing the previous restrictive 1999 Act, and provides that the opening of bingo in the Canary Islands must be subject to a public tender along with casinos, horse tracks, dog tracks and pelota courts. Licenses will have a 10 year duration.

The new legalization extends the regulatory framework for interactive television and Internet betting, which make up more than 15 percent of the gaming revenue in the Canaries, and is valued at Euro 1.6 billion. This is more than 3.5 percent of regional GDP.

And in Hungary, the newspaper Nepszava reports that national gambling association officials are increasingly concerned at the activities of foreign online gambling operators in the country, and have called on government to introduce regulation that would keep internet gambling under the control of the state, stopping the outflow of revenues to offshore companies.

Although under current regulations it is not illegal to advertise internet gambling services in Hungary, residents of the country are not permitted to gamble online, but many thousands do so regardless.

The gambling association wants more effective regulations against such services, which they claim could keep up to $66.8 million in Hungary.

International gambling companies, many of which are registered in tax havens, pay their taxes in their "home country", so Hungarian gamblers' money contributes to that country's budget, the association points out.

There are claims that an estimated 300-600,000 Hungarians are regular users of international gambling services, and the association proposes that only Hungarian companies with local management, operating for at least ten years in the field, should be allowed to offer such services.