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Remote Gambling Firms Challenge Greek Taxes

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

05 October 2011


The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which represents the largest online gambling operators and software providers in the world, on October 4, 2011, lodged a State aid complaint with the European Commission to challenge the legitimacy of new gambling tax laws introduced by Greece.

The complaint focuses on the favourable tax treatment afforded to the land-based services provided by part state-owned gambling operator OPAP which is significantly more beneficial than that afforded to private online gambling operators.

The complaint follows the recent adoption by the Greek parliament of the new gambling law which regulates remote gambling. The RGA has welcomed the fact that the legislation provides for the licensing of online operators, however it believes that the legislation has been geared towards delivering an unfair economic advantage to the existing monopoly operator OPAP.

In particular, the complaint cites that following the introduction of the new regime for online gambling, OPAP would unjustifiably and favourably be exempt from the 30% gross profits tax on its offline land-based gambling products, a tax which online gambling operators are required to pay under the new law. Furthermore, the law also imposes a 10% withholding tax on all customers’ winnings with online operators, whereas the customers of OPAP’s land-based services are exempt from any tax on winnings of EUR100 or less.

Upon launching the complaint, Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA, said:

“Despite the RGA having had a constructive relationship with the Greek authorities during the development of the new legislation, significant concerns remain about the viability and legality of the market under the terms of the new law.”

“Remote operators wish to obtain licences in Greece and to continue to offer Greek consumers competitive and well-regulated products. However the current unjustified fiscal favouritism being afforded to OPAP makes this extremely difficult and we urge the European Commission to investigate the new legislation for being in breach of State aid rules.”

The Greek government owns 34% of OPAP (valued at around EUR1.17bn), which currently has the exclusive right to offer sports betting and lottery products to Greek consumers.

“There are concerns that the new law provides tax benefits for OPAP’s land-based operation with the aim of increasing its value prior to a proposed sale of the government’s share,” Hawkswood suggested.

“We are fully aware of the fiscal pressures on the Greek authorities at present, but they do not justify the imposition of anti-competitive tax provisions which benefit the existing monopoly gambling provider over private online operators soon to be licensed in Greece. Not only does such action not conform with EU State aid rules, but if implemented, it will have a damaging impact on the private sector and associated growth and employment opportunities, as well as curbing competition and consumer choice. As such, we feel compelled to take this action and challenge the Greek authority’s favourable tax treatment of the part state-owned gambling operator.”

In lodging this complaint, the RGA stressed that its position "is not that online and offline gambling services should necessarily be taxed in the same manner, rather that any differentiation in taxation between offline and online operators should be objectively justified in consideration of the purpose and objectives of the particular tax regime in question".

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining the new possibilities that offshore e-commerce open up for business, and analysing the offshore jurisdictions that have led the way in offering professional e-commerce regimes for international business, with a particular focus on e-gaming, is available in the Lowtax Library at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/subs_reports.asp and a description of the report can be seen at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/description_report6.asp
TAGS: tax | business | European Commission | gambling tax | commerce | law | offshore | internet | e-commerce | gambling | licensing | legislation | offshore e-gaming | withholding tax | Greece | regulation | services | Europe

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