Betfair and William Hill apply to run Greek monopoly

4 July 2013

Internet betting exchange Betfair and UK bookmaker William Hill have reportedly applied to the Greek Ministry of Finance and the Greek Gambling Commission for the concession to run the online gambling monopoly currently operated by OPAP.

The move by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) members has been initiated to block the Greek Government's decision to grant OPAP exclusive online gambling rights in the country without holding a proper tender process.

A major stake in OPAP is in the process of being sold off as part of the Greek government’s privatisation programme. Czech investor Jiri Smejc, who controls the Czech-Greek Emma Delta fund, plans to acquire a 33 percent stake in OPAP for €652 million ($848 million). Emma Delta had said that it wanted to renegotiate a previous uncompleted OPAP-led deal to buy a state lottery licence but Smejc has indicated that the contract could be reviewed later.

“The Greek government is being very short-sighted,” said Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive Officer for the RGA.

'In granting OPAP an online monopoly without complying with the Treaty [on the functioning of the European Union] the government may have to compensate companies who had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to apply for the concession. They may also have to refund investors in OPAP who had been led to believe that OPAP did have a monopoly.

'But, most importantly, the Greek government is denying itself tax income from established online operators that would bring in millions of euros in taxation if they could be licensed in Greece.

“In the absence of constructive progress to introduce an open, transparent and fair online gambling regime, our members have made it clear that the RGA should use all efforts at its disposal including legal challenges to the European Union and the Greek courts, lobbying and public relations in order to get to a legal, clear, workable and fair resolution.”