Greek Lottery Operator OPAP Faces $25M Anti-Competition Fine
Posted on: October 3, 2023, 02:55h.
Last updated on: October 3, 2023, 10:02h.
In a landmark decision, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) has imposed a hefty €24.5-million (US$25.4 million) fine on the Greek gambling group OPAP. It alleges violations of Greek law and abuse of its former monopoly position in the market.
The HGC’s ruling stems from an investigation into OPAP’s business practices, particularly its conduct in the Greek market, where it historically held a monopoly. The commission contends that OPAP abused its dominant position, contravening elements of Greek law designed to ensure fair competition and protect consumers.
The crux of the HGC’s argument revolves around OPAP’s alleged anti-competitive behavior and its impact on the broader gambling landscape in Greece. The company, which once enjoyed exclusive rights in the market, is accused of engaging in practices that hindered fair competition and disadvantaged potential competitors.
The gaming regulator’s fine follows complaints it received from the Hellenic Cooperative of Professional Lotteries’ Agents and other entities. They assert that OPAP’s 2017 Exclusivity Agency Agreement contained an illegal noncompete clause and that the company violated Greek laws on several occasions from 2017 to 2021.
Violations on Various Fronts
The HGC hasn’t limited its accusations to violations of Greek law alone. The commission asserts that OPAP’s actions also run afoul of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which aims to maintain fair competition among member states. The HGC’s ruling suggests that OPAP’s actions not only breached national regulations, but also had wider implications for the European gambling market.
[The HGC’s] decision, which was not unanimous, does not relate [to] the company’s core business in the gaming market, but has to do with bill payment services and mobile top-up services offered by its agencies,” said OPAP in a statement.
OPAP, in response to the fine and allegations, vehemently denies any wrongdoing. The company argues that its operations were subject to proper oversight by the Bank of Greece, indicating that it operated within the bounds of the regulatory framework established by the Greek government. OPAP contends that it maintained compliance with all relevant laws during its tenure with the market monopoly.
In a strongly worded statement, OPAP expressed its disagreement with the HGC’s findings and declared its intention to challenge the ruling in court. The gambling group asserts that it has consistently adhered to regulatory guidelines, and any perceived breaches are a result of misinterpretation or misunderstanding.
Global Gaming In the Spotlight
The fine, one of the largest ever imposed by the HGC, underscores the regulatory body’s commitment to maintaining a fair and competitive gambling environment in Greece. The commission’s decision has far-reaching implications, not only for OPAP, but also for the broader gambling industry within the country.
Industry analysts note that the HGC’s move reflects a global trend toward stricter enforcement of gambling regulations. Regulatory bodies are increasingly scrutinizing the practices of major players in the industry in jurisdictions everywhere, and these reviews aren’t expected to slow down anytime soon.
As OPAP gears up for a legal battle to contest the fine, the outcome of this case will likely set a precedent for how gambling companies navigate regulatory landscapes in Greece and the European Union. The clash between OPAP and the HGC marks a critical juncture in the ongoing efforts to balance market competition with consumer protection in the evolving landscape of the Greek gambling industry.
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