August 16th, 2011 |
In the recent months, the Greek government was racing against the clock to implement financial reforms which included online gambling. These alterations had to be in place prior to the next round of auditing by the IMF which is scheduled for the end of August 2011. Luckily the Financial Minister was able to get the bill passed by a voice vote following three straight days of debate.
Complete Change of Heart
Surprisingly, the Greek parliament did a complete U-turn on many of the controversial features from the draft proposal that was originally rejected by the European Commission. One proposal that was missing from the final legislation is the six month blackout period required before legislation and regulation are implemented. This is designed to protect the state-owned gambling monopoly OPAP. Also, the section that eliminates the number of licenses granted is also absent.
Blackout Period Proposal
The blackout period proposal has changed to allow European Union-licensed operators to function freely in Greece. Also, these operators will be permitted to advertise via the Internet and offline media outlets. Another favorable change from the government is that private online operators will be allowed to target Greek customers from servers located overseas during the initial six month transitional period. Once licenses have been awarded, companies may be required to relocate.
All European Union-licensed online gambling operators will be required to pay 30 percent GPT while players will pay only 10 percent tax on winnings. The transitional period will soon be established by the Control Committee. Online gambling industry experts expect to begin seeing an advertising war between operators for the Greek market once licenses are granted.
The Future of OPAP
Currently the Greek government has a 34 percent stake in OPAP. In this legislation there are articles to enhance the value of OPAP. For instance, in a new section OPAP will receive a license to operate all 35,000 video lottery machines set up across the country. Since the Greek government is considering selling OPAP to private operators, perhaps this is an effort to raise the valuation of the online casino to negotiate a better price.
This is a major step in the right direction for Greece. Just a few months ago it looked as if the country would never legalize online gambling due to the rigid government requirements in the bill. Apparently authorities have turned over a new leaf and become more flexible.
July 29th, 2011 |
While back the European Commission (EC) chose to create a report with regards to the current state of online gambling in Europe prior to developing a regulated system. The Commission requested interested parties to provide input as a segment of the consultative process. The deadline to provide this input is less than a month away. However, many parties publicly voiced their opinions at the European Gambling Policy Conference in Brussels.
Once such speaker was a politician from the European Union (EU), J. Creutzmann. He felt that regulation of the online gambling industry across Europe is the best and only solution as to how to eliminate the current confusion in the market. Unfortunately, national regulation will be unsuccessful in a growing marketplace.
This same opinion has been mentioned by several industry executives, representatives from the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) and other observers. Since there is a lack of standardized regulations between the Member States and the EU, costs continue to increase and fraud and unlicensed gambling are flourishing. The EGBA has highlighted the level of fragmentation of the industry into 27 independent markets with varying taxes and other fees.
This highly discourages responsible gaming organizations from entering the market allowing for less reputable unlicensed owners to move in. In the end, the player will suffer the most. Also, the lack of standardized regulation pushes potential customers to unregulated markets in places like China. A synergized regulation would help eliminate corruption by increasing enforcement.
This viewpoint is also consistent with sports. For example, fixing a matching or event in Spain and the United Kingdom is highly illegal. However, in Bulgaria there is a no law against the actions. This has occurred because the EU has not taken upfront action and allowed the burden of regulation to fall with governments in specific markets.
The opposing individuals believe that most Member States of the EU do not want a standardized regulation so they can keep the money within the country. Many also do not want large gambling markets for religious reasons. A representative from the Association of Charity Lotteries agrees with this point of view.
Also most European countries have a fairly robust online gaming regulatory system. However, this proves that there a long way to go. Both sides make compelling arguments so the decision to make a standardized regulatory system will be difficult.