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EU court rules OPAP gambling monopoly “illegal”

Greece’s gambling monopoly owned byOpap SA (OPAP) was ruled illegal by the European Union’s highest court, sending shares of the company down as much as 21 percent.

EU law prohibits national rules that grant exclusive rights without serving the public interest by reducing the number of betting opportunities, the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled today. The case was filed by Opap competitors Stanleybet International Ltd., William Hill Plc and Sportingbet Plc. (SBT)

The EU’s top court has examined a series of cases brought by betting companies including Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc (BPTY), Ladbrokes Plc (LAD) and Betfair Ltd. over whether state monopolies may block them from operating freely across the 27-nation bloc. Online companies have also called on the EU to take action against what they say are unjustified national restrictions on cross-border Internet gambling.

The EU court said that Greece could preserve the monopoly by subjecting it to stricter controls to ensure consumer protection. If it fails to do that, the country would have to open it up to competition from other companies in the EU.

Opap shares fell 11 percent to 6.27 euros at 11:37 a.m. in Athens, for the biggest drop on the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Opap Chairman Constantine Louropoulos wasn’t immediately available to comment on the ruling.

An adviser to the EU court in a non-binding opinion in the case in September said the national court can’t conclude the legislation is trying to restrict the availability of gambling in the country if Opap, in which the government is a minority shareholder, pursues an expansionist policy.

The Greek tribunal handling the appeals sought guidance from the EU court in 2011. EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said last year he is working on an action plan to rein in illegal and “unregulated” online gambling.

The EU court has said in some previous cases that gambling monopolies may be justified if they reduce betting addiction or reduce criminal activities in a proportional manner.

Stanleybet, Sportingbet and William Hill — all U.K.-based companies — applied separately for Greek licenses to offer gambling in stores and online. Their applications, filed in 2004, 2006 and 2007, were rejected based on national law, which the companies argued violated EU rules guaranteeing freedom to provide services and set up business anywhere in the bloc.

(read full article Bloomberg)

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4 comments

  1. You could of course (and should) ask the question :”What exactly is the “service” offered by gambling companies?”
    I have yet to recieve a satisfactory answer as to why providing gambling facilites would ever be considered a service to anybody, other than the bank account of those offering the “service” and creating loads of extra work for bona fide social services dealing with the results of these gambling “services”.

  2. keeptalkinggreece

    in this context gambling profits should be open to everyone and everywhere.

  3. giaourti giaourtaki

    legalizing kalamata-grass would bring in much more profits

  4. Well, people gamble, so what? I don’t think this will ever change, so someone must provide this service to the people. As mentioned in the
    article, if: “monopolies may be justified if they reduce betting addiction or reduce criminal activities in a proportional manner”
    I don’t see a problem in the whole affair.

    As far as I know OPAP is one of the few organizations still left in Greece that actually make tremendous amounts of money but are obliged to return a lot of it, too to be able to fulfill the EUs aforementioned requirements. From OPAPs “Corporate Social Responsibility” section, one can read the following:

    ” RESPONSIBLE GAMING

    The ‘Responsible Gaming’ axis includes the totality of initiatives and actions that OPAP S.A. undertakes for the protection of the public and preventing socially vulnerable groups from excessively participating to the company’s games.

    Responsible Gaming is fundamental to the Company, which steers its operations to achieving prudent participation in its games, by adults only. In this field, as a member of World Lotteries Association (WLA) and the European Lotteries(EL), the Company is committed to the implementation of the Responsible Gaming Certification framework that has been established by the two associations, aiming at the protection of players worldwide.

    At the same time, the Company organizes its corporate communication according to the Principles of Responsible Advertising and Marketing.”

    The full text can be read here:

    http://www.opap.gr/en/web/corporate.opap.gr/49

    It’s only logical that because of the fact that people all around the world have always gambled and will always be gambling, foreign private companies want to have a share of those national monopolies: It’s a huge market with a lot of money to be made.

    Thanks to the EU court’s decision the only thing that will happen instead, is that Bwin, Ladbrokes and Betfair will help to stab the knife just a little bit deeper into Greece’s heart.