Greece's betting monopoly is here to stay, as a Greek court ruled that the position held by the Greek gambling monopolistic company OPAP is legal and fully compliant with all EU treaties.
As Reuters reports, Greece's Council of State ruled on Tuesday that all the reforms adopted by the Greek Parliament to regulate the online gambling industry are in line with European law.
According to the judges, OPAP can keep its monopolistic position as it operates with the aim of fighting illegal betting and criminal activities in the gaming market.
This finally brings to an end a legal battle started back in 2004 by operators William Hill, Stanleybet and Sportingbet, who believed the monopoly to be in open conflict with the treaties that regulate the freedom of services with the European Union. The ruling is expected also to be used by other European counties (aka Sweden) to justify the existence of other gambling monopolies as the one held by Sweden's Svenska Spel.
The decision of Greece's Council of States comes in response to a formal judgment of the European Court of Justice, which in January 2013 raised concerns over OPAP's monopoly and called it "incompatible with the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services.“
"EU law precludes OPAP from having an exclusive right to organize and operate games of chance in Greece," the ECJ wrote.
Nevertheless, right in the in the same ruling, Europe's highest court left Greek authorities with some vital room to justify the existence of OPAP's monopoly: "If, however, the State finds that the liberalization of that market is incompatible with the level of consumer protection and the preservation of order in society which it intends to uphold, it may undertake reforms of the monopoly inter alia by making it subject to effective and strict control."
In this sense, according to the ECJ, Greek authorities had the opportunity to leave OPAP a monopolistic position. The same ruling revealed that if a European Member State finds that "the liberalization of the market for games of chance is incompatible with the level of consumer protection and the preservation of order in society which it intends to uphold, the State may instead undertake reforms of the monopoly and make it subject to effective and strict controls by the public authorities."
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