Tuesday July 23,2013 : GREEKS GET AWAY WITH ONLINE GAMBLING MONOPOLY…FOR NOW.
But the decisions of the European Commission can be confusing
The decisions of the European Commission can often seem convoluted, confusing and disappointing, and this was especially the case this week when the European Union's enforcement body opened the way for the Greek government to award a seven-year controversial online gambling monopoly to the partly state-owned firm OPAP.
The EC lifted an additional month-long "stand still" requirement on the Greek proposal, imposed after strong opposition from the government of Malta and serious objections from online gambling commercial interests regarding the fairness of the monopoly and the Greek about-turn on previous liberalisation promises.
The Greek government's privatisation agency will no doubt be pleased with the ending of the stand still period, because it enables the government to press ahead with its plan to award the online gambling monopoly to OPAP in a deal that is scheduled to run until 2020.
The latest Greek move will effectively permit only the operation of live dealer casino and tournament poker online activities by companies other than OPAP, reserving all other forms of online gambling for the already powerful monopoly.
That will probably enhance the perceived value of the enterprise for would-be buyers, although the Greeks cannot implement the new arrangement until September this year – six months from the date of the original notification of their intentions to the EC.
Complicating the issue, an element of doubt and confusion remains, because the European Commission has also announced that the end of the standstill period does not preclude it from launching infringement procedures against the Greek government if it actually implements its monopolistic policies.
The Greeks will also have to tread carefully now that Betfair and William Hill have applied to operate the online gambling monopoly; their intention to expose the lack of fairness and competition in the award of the contract has the potential to create more pressure in an already controversial situation, making the ethical shortcomings in the Greek-OPAP plan all too apparent.
Subsequent actions against the Greeks by the EC could also be given credibility by the European Court of Justice ruling back in January this year (see previous InfoPowa reports), which found that the current OPAP monopoly was essentially illegal after complaints were laid by major European online and land gambling groups.
Meanwhile, those same European internet gambling groups, along with trade bodies like the Remote Gaming Association and the European Gaming and Betting Association, will undoubtedly maintain the pressure in both a legal and political sense to redress what they see as questionable conduct by the Greek government, and a lack of competitive opportunity in the manner in which it is handling the nation's online gambling business possibilities.