The draft Bill regulating the Greek Gaming Market was submitted to Parliament by the Ministry of Finance on March 17th, 2011 providing for the legal activity of technical leisure games and games of chance, as well as for the granting of licenses via an international public tender for the conduct of games of chance either via gaming machines or via the Internet. The main objectives of the new draft Bill are the protection of the public interest, the compatibility of the Greek law to EU law as well as to ensure important state revenues.

The abovementioned draft Bill must be notified to the European Commission according to the provisions of Directive 98/34 as new technical requirements are included therein. Thus, a delay of at least three months is envisaged for the voting procedure before the Greek Parliament. The Greek Government after two unfruitful requests before the EU Commission for urgent consideration of the draft Bill is waiting the lapse of the standstill period on July 6th, 2011 to proceed to the voting.

The aforementioned Bill will have as a result the enlargement of the market, the establishment of legal competition in the gaming market, but also the spread of gambling throughout the country. One of the most important issues emerging from the draft Bill is the protection of minors. The draft Bill sets the minimum age of eligibility to participate in gambling activities at 21, forcing this way the Government to subsequently amend the minimum age for entrance to casinos in order to avoid unfair competition. However, the lack of provisions for specific requirements for the control of age of the player gives rise to concern. Especially for the participation in games of chance via the Internet, there are no specific provisions for the way the individual player card will be issued and consequently for the way of control and accreditation of age of the player. Thus, an obvious danger exists:  the limitation of control to a simple declaration by the player.

The Ministry of Finance staff expects by the enforcement of the said Bill the limitation of the “black market”, by legalizing more then 20,000 already existing illegal gambling machines as well as an important revenue by the taxation of the huge annual turnover of online gambling activities. Moreover, stakeholders via their comments on the draft Bill put on public consultation have succeeded the final text of the draft Bill to provide for a taxation on the license holders’ gross profit and not on their annual turn over, as provided for in the first place, as well as the possibility for illegal actors of the market to participate to the forthcoming public tender. Finally, we are still waiting for the Government’s final position to OPAP pressure. OPAP puts forward that the current legal framework (L.2843/2000), as well as the Agreement between the Greek State and OPAP dated December 15th, 2000, both allocate to OPAP an exclusive right for the conduct of games, as the Greek State has committed itself to firstly propose to OPAP the conduct and administration of new games.

Shall we note at this point the great interest expressed by foreign undertakings to participate in the Greek Gaming Market provided that the terms of the Bill’s final text will be favourable for their activities and that safeguards will exist such as fair taxation and the use of security measures in order to avoid the involvement in the Greek market of unlicensed players, mainly via the Internet.

Edited by Crystallia Iatridou, Dimitra Georgaraki