Recently it was announced that the Hellenic Asset Development Fund has launched the tender process for the sale of the Greek Government’s 33% stake in the Hellenic Football Prognostics Organisation S.A. (“OPAP”). The Remote Gambling Association (“the RGA”) will continue to challenge the unfair treatment of private sector online gambling operators. It has three outstanding cases against the Greek government and is considering whether any additional action is necessary. It has written to Deutsche Bank to ensure it is fully aware of the situation.
In a detailed letter to Deutsche Bank and the National Bank of Greece, the RGA provided information on the outstanding complaints to the European Commission and on the petition lodged in the Greek Council of State.
In August 2011 the Greek government passed gambling legislation which introduced a licensing regime for some forms of online gambling in Greece. A number of the RGA’s members are active in the Greek online market and are impacted by the new law and regulations in a detrimental manner. This includes the previous and ongoing preferential treatment given to OPAP by the Hellenic Republic.
The letter sets out three current complaints that could have a material effect on the future value of OPAP. These are:
- The complaint notes that EU licensed gambling operators are required to submit to a retroactive tax regime equivalent to a market entry fee; this does not apply to the offline gambling sector which continues to be controlled by OPAP and this unequal tax treatment amounts to a potential state aid and is also a breach of EU free movement provisions.
- The RGA has jointly with the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) made a complaint to DG MARKT on free movement grounds. The recently announced change in the tax regime for OPAP does not change the fact that it is being allowed, without any justification, to maintain an offline sports betting monopoly whilst also potentially being awarded an online sports betting monopoly.
- The action is founded on the grounds that the Ministerial Decision implementing taxation measures (“the Decision”) is unconstitutional as it contravenes the right to conduct a business activity and is disproportionate. Furthermore, the Decision does not accord with the principle that EU law supersedes conflicting provisions of Greek law. The case will be heard in December 2012.
Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA, said: “Given that there are a number of significant challenges to the new gambling regime in Greece, it is only right that we brought these to the attention of Deutsche Bank to ensure that they are properly reflected in the sale process.
Under pressure from the European Commission, the Greek government has announced plans to rectify the preferential tax treatment that OPAP’s online gaming business would have enjoyed, but there are other major issues that have still to be resolved, not least the fact that the intention is still to let OPAP have a monopoly in the online sports betting market.
Of course, if the online sports betting market is fully opened and all participants are taxed and treated equally our position may change and the Greek Government, online betting customers and gambling operators will benefit from a fair and competitive market that operates in compliance with EU rules.”