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EU Urged To Challenge Greek Gambling Legislation

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

30 November 2012

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) have asked the European Commission to investigate whether Greek legislation governing Greece's online gambling sector contravenes European Union law.

The Associations claim that new gambling legislation, passed in August 2011, to regulate and tax online gambling, is too restrictive for private sector companies, and is serving instead to support OPAP, the state gambling services provider, to extend its monopolistic position in the Greek marketplace, in the soon-to-be-regulated online gambling sector.

The EGBA and the RGA, which between them represent the majority of the largest European remote gambling operators, have voiced concern that the Greek government has failed to begin licensing online gambling operators. Several private sector operators already offer online gambling services, on a non-regulated basis, and stringent enforcement measures are planned to be imposed on operators without licenses, including financial penalties. These include Internet Service Provider- and payment-blocking, and fines on banks and Internet providers who facilitate the provision of gambling services by non-regulated operators.

The Associations argue that Greece is acting in contravention of its EU commitments, allowing OPAP an unfair advantage in the online gambling services market, particularly as the regulator has already granted OPAP a ten-year extension to its license, until 2030, under what they claim was an "untransparent" process.

In recent days, uncertainty surrounding the forthcoming regime, and its legality, has led gambling operator Betfair to abandon its efforts to obtain a license to operate in Greece.

Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive Officer of the RGA explained the industry's complaint: “When the Greek government said it was going to license and regulate the domestic online gambling market we welcomed this as a positive step. However, instead of encouraging the development of a competitive and well-regulated market, the Greek government and Gaming Commission are blocking major European private operators from it. We therefore look to the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, to ensure that Greece follows the correct procedures and that the laws that it is seeking to introduce are fully compliant with EU law.”

The RGA and EGBA have had earlier success in challenging elements of the Greek legislation in Brussels. Following an earlier complaint lodged with the European Commission in October 2011, the Greek Ministry of Finance revised the terms of the new tax regime to face gambling operators and their clients from January 1, 2013. Greek authorities agreed to levy a 30% tax on offline gambling profits, impacting OPAP, and align the tax terms placed on OPAP with the forthcoming tax regime to be imposed on online gambling services providers from January 1, 2013. An additional flat tax of 10% will also be levied on gamblers' winnings from this date.

TAGS: tax | European Commission | commerce | law | offshore | internet | e-commerce | gambling | licensing | legislation | offshore e-gaming | Greece | tax reform | Europe

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