OPAP Monopoly in Greece Challenged by EU Advocate General


Regarding legal challenges expressed in the Stanleybet, William Hill & Sportingbet case against the German Government, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU, to whom the case was referred by the Greek Council of State, expressed his opinion, finding that the gambling legislation in Greece, which gives certain monopolistic rights to the Greek gambling group OPAP is not compliant with EU law.

And while the Greek government justifies its controversial legislation with claims that it serves to help fight criminality by exercising control over the single operator, the Advocate General rejected the justifications, opining that OPAP's expansion and the public promotion of its products went 'far beyond what is necessary in order to channel consumers towards the controlled provision of gambling services.'

He also said that OPAP is not subject to strict control by the public authorities which is why the Greek monopoly does not satisfy the requirements of CJEU case law.

To the referring court's question is any transitory period would be allowes for the national authorities to enact new laws should the current legislation be found non-compliant with EU law, the Advocate General said that compliance must be reached without delay and that there is no room for concluding that the Greek legislation at issue may remain applicable during a transitory period in so far as the referring court considers it to be contrary to EU law.

Regarding the Advocate General's opinion, Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of European trade body the Remote Gaming Association, said: 'Although it is referring to the old legislation, we welcome the opinion of the Advocate General as it demonstrates once again that this regime was blatantly in breach of EU law.

"We hope that the CJEU will accept the Advocate General's opinion and give the Greek Council of State an unequivocal answer to the questions it has asked. When that happens the Greek Council of State would seem to have little option other than to follow the lead set by Advocate General Mazak.

"In any event this opinion sends a clear signal not just to Greece, but to other Member States, that they have an obligation to ensure that their gambling laws are compliant. It is not something they should have to be forced to do, however, if necessary we would expect the CJEU and the European Commission to compel them to fall into line. Commissioner Barnier's statement earlier this year about enforcement was a public commitment to take action and we trust him to be as good as his word."

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