OPAP Betting Monopoly Legal According To Greek CourtOctober 2, 2014 2:30 pm
In 2004, a number of big European gambling companies including William Hill, Sportingbet and Stanleybet, challenged the right of OPAP to operate a gambling monopoly in Greece, claiming it was against the EU rules on freedom of services.
Since then, the Greek government had enacted a number of reforms to its industry, including selling its 33% stake in the company for €652 million last year, and on Tuesday the long running legal saga finally came to an end after Greece’s Council of State declared OPAP fully in line with all EU treaties
Apparently the Greek court was satisfied the reforms Athens had made to its gambling industry since 2011 abided by EU rules, and furthermore the Greek Court claimed that the country’s current monopoly framework was key in combating illegal sports betting and corruption in the gambling market.
As a result, Europe’s biggest betting firm will continue having exclusive rights to be the sole provider of sports betting inside Greece until 2020, and lotteries until 2030. In addition, the court’s ruling is likely to be cited by other European countries in justifying their own gambling monopolies, such as Svenska Spel in Sweden.
Interestingly, in January 2013 when the European Court of Justice described OPAP’s monopoly as “incompatible with the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services,“ the ECJ did allow Greece wiggle room by also announcing the following caveat:
“If, however, the State finds that the liberalization of that market is incompatible with the level of consumer protection and the preservation of order in society which it intends to uphold, it may undertake reforms of the monopoly inter alia by making it subject to effective and strict control.”
In the meantime, last month OPAP released its second quarter results revealing an EBITDA of €68.6 million ($90.57m), up 50% over the same period last year, and a net profit of €15.7 million which despite being 44.5% lower than in Q2 2014 was still better than expected considering the company had been hit with a €21.6 million retroactive tax.