How has the country’s recent history of political turmoil affected Greece’s legal landscape with regards to gambling? In this article, we examine the present state of Greek law regarding online gambling, including the OPAP’s historic monopoly on the market.
Casino Games and Their Regulatory Status
Greece has a convoluted legal landscape when it comes to gambling, with all kinds of ‘electronic gaming’ banned in 2002 before the government realized this effectively made non-gambling activities like playing home console games illegal as well!
The gaming Act of 2011 provided much-needed clarification, legalizing both traditional slot machines and online gaming. The plan was to create a licensing scheme for potential private operators in order to raise much-needed finances, and 24 provisional licenses were issued in preparation.
However, in 2012, plans were made for the state-owned OPAP (Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics) to monopolize the developing online gambling business, which would have been a violation of EU fair market and competition legislation. Many businesses with interim licenses shut down after being told to begin winding down operations.
A new market for poker, bingo, and casinos emerged in 2021 after years of lobbying to break the monopoly held by the now privatized OPAP. Until 2023, OPAP will continue to enjoy a monopoly on all forms of land-based gambling in the country, including sports betting and traditional and digital lotteries.
Greece legalized casino gambling after a period of debate over its definition. There are currently 9 casinos in operation in Greece, with licensing issued by the Hellenic Gaming Commission for both physical and virtual casinos.
Since the market was regulated and OPAP lost its monopoly in 2021, about 15 online gambling sites have been awarded licenses.
Since OPAP did not capitalize on its monopoly on online poker in Greece until 2021, there are currently no online poker sites based in the nation. Private operators can now seek for a license to provide online poker from the Hellenic Gaming Commission after the monopoly was broken and the industry was regulated.
The country has a total of nine brick-and-mortar casinos where you can play poker. The country also has many slot halls outside of the casinos that have video poker machines.
While Greece’s online poker market is only getting started, players can still enjoy the game at one of the many offshore online casinos.
Bingo presents an intriguing legal scenario in Greece because the law makes no reference to the game. Even though bingo meets the legal definition of gaming, none of the existing license holders run a bingo brand.
You would believe that OPAP operates online bingo casinos given that it still holds a monopoly on sports betting and lotteries and bingo is generally categorized as a sort of lottery.
The legal position for both offline and online bingo is that it is permissible by law; the game may be unavailable owing to a lack of popularity or because present license holders do not want to take the risk.
With their extended monopoly till 2023, OPAP continues to control all Greek lotteries, both traditional and digital. Since its privatization in 2013, the firm has become one of the few non-government entities to operate a national lottery. Raffles, instant games, scratch cards, keno, and some varieties of bingo are all under OPAP’s jurisdiction.
Although not all lottery items are now available online, OPAP also regulates online sales of lottery tickets.
Many Greeks have little trouble signing up for one of the many websites offering real money lottery games online.
Participatory Video Games
Social games are not covered by current legislation in the country, unlike virtual sports and daily fantasy sports, which are covered by existing gambling restrictions.
As a result, the law does not directly address the issue of loot boxes or games that simulate gambling but do not involve actual money.
Greek Gambling Legislation and Its Past
When internet casinos first started becoming popular around the year 2000, Greece took a harsh stance against gambling in general. Soon after, in 2002, the Greek government enacted Law 3037/2002, outlawing all kinds of gambling in Greece.
However, online gambling was not differentiated from other forms of gaming. The problem was resolved in 2011 by the Gambling Act, a more permissive piece of legislation that legalized and regulated both offline slot machines and online gambling.
As a result of allowing OPAP, a state-owned company founded in 1958 and dogged by allegations of corruption, to maintain a monopoly on almost all forms of gambling in the country, complications arose when the 24 interim license holders who were initially awarded licenses were told to wind down operations.
Since 2021, when the EU Court of Justice decided that OPAP’s monopoly in poker, bingo, casino games, and online sports betting violated European laws of fair market and competition, the Hellenic Gaming Commission has issued various licenses to private enterprises.