Proponents of the free market scored a victory against government gambling monopoly – at least that’s one possible reading of the recent decision by the European Union Court of Justice. In its ruling the EU’s highest judiciary body declared Greek gambling monopoly illegal.
Current Greek gambling laws relegate casino gambling to certain resorts, while also making sports betting and lotteries the monopoly of OPAP, a publicly held company.
EU laws and principles do not allow such national monopolies, unless the case for the protection of public interest can be clearly proved. Otherwise it is generally assumed that the public interest is served by open competition.
The ruling does not abolish the monopoly, and indeed opens the way for its preservation in case Greece is ready to implement stricter controls and greater consumer protection. Opponents of the monopoly have argued that such controls and protection is best provided by market pressures arising from competition.
The possibility does, however, exist that Greece fails to meet the EU Court of Justice requirements, in which case its market would have to be opened up. This latter outcome is what the plaintiffs, sports betting companies Stanleybet, William Hill and Sportingbet are hoping for.
Further complaints are also being examined relating to the strict laws prohibiting online casinos in Greece, as such restrictions are supposedly in conflict with EU free market policies.
Given the details of the court ruling, legalized online poker or internet betting in Greece is still something further down the road.