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RGA predicts legal battles as Greece prepares to blacklist 402 domains

31st July 2013 1:01 pm GMT

The chances of French state-controlled gaming operator PMU and US casino operator Caesars illegally providing online gambling services to Greek customers would be considered slim if non-existent, but that has not stopped Greek authorities from including their domains in a blacklist for internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to.

These domains, together with the websites of the largest EU-licensed online gaming operators are included in a blacklist of 402 online gaming domains drawn up by Greek authorities for ISPs and financial institutions to block access and payments to.

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), the online gaming industry body, was quick to hit out at the Greek Gaming Commission today for drawing up the blacklist, which it argues is contrary to European law and will open up the Greek authorities to legal challenge.

The RGA notes that while the authority to draw up the blacklist was set out in draft regulations notified by Greek authorities to the European Commission (EC), the regulations received a detailed opinion from both Malta and the EC which set out the reasons why the law is not compatible with European regulations.

“To date, no amendments to the draft regulations have been passed by the Greek government and therefore the concerns expressed in the detailed opinion have not been addressed,” the RGA said in a statement.

The blacklist features domains belonging to some of the biggest operators in the industry across all product verticals, including the likes of 888, bwin.party, 32Red, Betsson, BetVictor, PMU, Stan James, Sportech, Tatts, Unibet, and Caesars, among others.

Notable by their absence are any domains belonging to PokerStars (except, curiously, its blog website), Ladbrokes, William Hill and Betfair, and sites such as EverestPoker, whose sister site EverestCasino is blacklisted.

The RGA has written to ask the Hellenic Gaming Commission to stop reviewing interim licences held by “legitimate operators” in Greece, believing that the real reason for interviewing the operators who have been granted an interim online gambling licence is to prepare for blacklisting.

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, said there is no justification for the review of interim licences at this stage.

“All that the Hellenic Gaming Commission will achieve is the closure of legitimate and well regulated gambling companies. In all other jurisdictions that have sought to maintain online gambling monopolies a significant proportion of the population have chosen to bet on more attractive sites based in other jurisdictions. We have no doubt this will happen in Greece too,” Hawkswood said.

“It must be obvious that the Greek people, the Greek government and the Greek licensed industry would all benefit from a competitive and successful domestic market. That is not even a possibility if interim licences are removed and OPAP is gifted an online monopoly.”

The RGA fears that the real reason for review of the licences and the creation of the blacklist is to provide the current offline monopoly operator OPAP with a de facto online betting and gaming monopoly.

“The RGA refutes the existence of a legal online gambling monopoly in favour of OPAP because the legal basis for the concession has not been demonstrated,” claims the association. “Even if the concession does have a legal basis the awarding of it to OPAP has not been transparent or in accordance with European directives.”

The blacklist of 402 domains is available for download here.

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