EU to move on gaming markets

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission said yesterday it plans to make some decisions on legal action against France, Sweden and Greece regarding their gambling markets. «There will be some decisions made probably tomorrow by the college (of commissioners) on a number of member states,» Oliver Drewes, a spokesman for the European Union’s executive arm, told a regular briefing. «This concerns France, Greece and Sweden for the moment. Those are the decisions on the calendar for tomorrow,» Drewes said. Reuters reported last week that the Commission would issue a final warning to France and Sweden and an initial warning to Greece for restricting competition in their gambling markets. Drewes said the EU executive had no plan to introduce legislation harmonizing gambling rules across the 27-nation bloc. EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has indicated that seeking to push through a harmonization bill would not attract enough support among EU states to be adopted. Sports betting and gambling is a state-owned monopoly in many EU states, generating large amounts of revenues for government coffers. For example, Greek betting monopoly OPAP is a listed company and Europe’s biggest betting firm, but competition is restricted. OPAP competes in Cyprus but rivals such as Britain’s Stanley Leisure or William Hill are not allowed to compete with OPAP on the Greek market. The Commission has opened legal actions against many EU states, saying a string of European Court of Justice rulings have given it the basis to crack down on national restrictions to competitors.

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