William Hill moves on Greek monopoly

U.K. bookmaker William Hill has its eyes on Greece. And it has applied to the Greek government for the requisite gaming license, hoping the full force of EU law and a recent ruling in Italy will back its challenge to the current monopoly.

Greek company OPAP has, under the terms of a 20-year contract with the state, the current rights for all lottery and sports betting games in Greece.

William Hill, however, claims that is a direct breach of EU law, and feels it has a right to set up its own shops under the same terms governing OPAP.

"This application has been made on the basis of the free movement of services and freedom of establishment under EU law," the company said in a statement to news outlets last Friday.

"The current monopoly position enjoyed by OPAP, an Athens stock exchange-listed company, cannot be justified on the basis of public interest issues.

"In the event that the Greek authorities do not grant the requests made by William Hill, this position will clearly breach EU law and therefore be untenable."

The latest in a series of moves by gaming companies challenging state monopolies across Europe, William Hill is also hoping its case is strengthened by a ruling by the European Court of Justice last month in Italy which said gaming laws there were too restrictive.

Greek daily newspaper Imerisia did however quote OPAP Chief Executive Basile Neiadas as saying the government would not grant William Hill a license because of the monopoly agreement.

William Hill Chief Executive David Harding told Reuters the firm would go to Europe's lawmakers if Greece rejected its requests.

British casino operator Stanley Leisure previously applied for a license in 2005, but was rejected by the Greek government.

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