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European Commission Pushes Greece to Abandon Plans of Monopoly


Right after the visit the European commissioner for competition and European Commission vice president Joakin Almunia paid to Athens, the Greek government decided to introduce significant amendments to its gaming law. This should finally put Greece's legislation in line with European directives and calm fears of an upcoming monopoly.

Greece's reliance on the so-called "European trojka" — the unofficial group composed by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — pushed the country to change direction and remove from its gambling law some criticized bits that could have led to the creation of a sports-betting monopoly controlled by the Greek Organization of Football Prognostics (OPAP).

According to eGaming review, the draft bill sent to the Greek parliament last Friday includes precise dispositions to regulate Internet gambling, the current framework of black and white lists, and the way financial institutions can handle gambling transactions.

In this regard, in order to comply with European treaties for the free movement of services within the single European market, the new bill should finally allow any financial institutions based in the European Union to process gambling-related operations involving Greek citizens.

Talks between Almunia and Greece’s finance minister Yannis Stournaras also resulted in a hefty change of direction of Greece’s policies on betting. References about an upcoming OPAP-controlled online sports-betting monopoly seem to have been deleted from the final version of the draft sent to the country’s parliament.

According to national media, EC Commissioner Almunia has also openly questioned the process that led OPAP to be chosen as monopolistic operator and asked to be given specific information about the amount paid by the company for that matter.

Poker-wise, the new bill might write the final chapter about on the possibility for Greece to proceed with the regulation of its national online poker market through the introduction of a monopoly controlled by the OPAP, as changes in the online betting regulation would apply also for online poker.

Yet, the situation currently remains unclear and, until when the bill will be approved and OPAP’s role in Greece’s gambling market will become clearer, the country will keep running in a "transitional phase," with 24 temporarily licensed operators offering games under a .GR domain including Rational Group poker rooms PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

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