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William Hill And Betfair Apply To Run Greek Gambling Industry

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Betfair and William Hill have applied to run the Greek online gambling monopoly set to be handed to current land-based incumbent OPAP.

Their applications for an exclusive five-year licence to offer igaming in Greece follows their sudden exit from the market last November under threat of sanctions, and form part of lobby group-led efforts to further expose the illegality of Greek plans to restrict online betting and most other online games to OPAP until 2020.

Lobby group the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said the Greek government had “in effect” already granted OPAP the monopoly “without express legal approval and without any competitive tendering” in breach of Article 56 of the EU Treaty, prompting Betfair and William Hill’s applications to the Greek State, the Minister of Finance and the Hellenic Gaming Commission for the concession.

EU regulators last week extended their review of Greece’s plans by a month after receiving a detailed opinion from dot.com licensing hub Malta and also issuing their own, with Greece now having to respond to the EC on what action it plans to take on the points raised by the submissions.

RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood said today the Greek Government was being “very short sighted” in extending OPAP’s monopoly online in breach of EU Treaty rules. “The Government may have to compensate companies who had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to apply for the concession”, argued Hawkswood.

The lobbyist also suggested investors in OPAP who had done so with the understanding its monopoly on all betting and gaming in Greece would continue may also have to be refunded.

The RGA and its counterpart the European Gaming and Betting Association have long argued that establishing an open, transparent and fair online gambling regime which complied with EU law would bring in millions of euros in taxes for Greece if it allowed private online operators to apply for licences.

Betfair and Hill’s were among 24 companies which begun paying taxes in Greece under a temporary licence scheme after the EU Member State passed law 4002/2011 in August 2011 providing for the issue of multiple licences via an international tender process.

The Greek state however changed tack late last year, tabling the amendments currently being scrutinised by the EC which would strike out this commitment and, until 12 October 2020, only grant online gambling licences to operators other than OPAP “for casino-type games of chance, the results of which are not provided by a random number generator as in poker tournaments”.

In January, OPAP’s monopoly was ruled to be illegal as currently operated by Europe’s highest court, the CJEU, ruling in joined cases had been brought by William Hill, Sportingbet and Stanleybet. There are now five outstanding complaints lodged against OPAP’s monopoly, four with the EC, another with the Greek Council of State.

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