If the economic climate in Greece isn’t in enough tatters, large scale outcry from the government’s decision to grant Greek operator OPAP an online betting monopoly until 2020 has forced the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), one of Europe’s iGaming industry bodies, to finally make a stand.
The RGA, which represents the majority of the largest European remote gambling operators, is making it clear to the Greek government that should the latter not reverse its course and amend its recent gambling regulation proposals, then the former isn’t afraid to throw down the legal hammer against the government.
The RGA’s gripe stems from the Greek government’s decision to publish a number of enforcement measures that have been created to protect the interests of the country’s monopoly operator, OPAP. This move could be described as the latest in a series of highly questionable decisions made by the government in recent months, beginning with the implementation of anti-online gambling regulations that not only cancelled the licenses of 24 gaming companies, but threatened these operators to stay away from the country or receive fines and sanctions to anybody who refuses to comply with the new regulations. As far as Greece goes, the OPAP is the alpha and omega of their online gaming market.
Turns out, the RGA isn’t going to be muted on this issue either. In a statement, RGA CEO Clive Hawkswood reiterated the industry body’s opposition of the regulations. “These measures have clearly been introduced in haste and we cannot believe that they have been approved by the [European Commission],” Hawkswood commented. “They are blatantly protectionist in nature and if EU internal market rules mean anything then the EC must take prompt action to make Greece reconsider.”
The RGA isn’t the only one that has complained about Greece’s nonchalant attitude towards iGaming outside of what OPAP can provide for them. The European Betting and Gaming Association (EGBA) has echoed the same sentiments as the RGAs with EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligne telling CalvinAyre.com last month about Greece’s “long history of non-compliance of its gambling legislation with EU law.”
“The various developments in the last few months confirm the total inconsistency of the Greek gambling policy,” Ligne added, “and the fact that the national authorities have no intention to organize the market as to ensure that EU regulated operators are offered a fair and non-discriminatory access.”
It’s all a big mess, really; an enormous deuce dropped by the Greek government to protect it’s own (OPAP) interests while clearly undermining online gambling companies that not only saw their licenses revoked, but were also threatened with fines, severe administrative penalties, and even jail time for their noncompliance.
To their credit, the RGA is, at least trying to still be diplomatic about the situation, calling on the Greek government to ensure that the new regime provides a “regulated and competitive, domestic online gambling market that protects the consumer, is viable for the industry, delivers additional tax revenues, and is fully compliant with EU law.”
But if the Greek government and its gaming commission continue to ignore these calls without any legitimate justification, then the RGA isn’t afraid to hit back and send the issue to the courts.