Gameboy players need fear no more

For almost three months, due to a carelessly worded law against electronic gambling, anyone caught playing computer games in Greek Internet cafes, on park benches or even in the privacy of their own home was liable to arrest. But following an intense protest campaign by Internet cafe owners – and embarrassing coverage in the international press – yesterday, the government said computer game afficionados can bang away at their keyboards fearlessly. «There is no problem for any individual or for the tourists visiting Greece to use their private electronic or other games such as Playstation, Gameboy, X-Box et cetera,» an Economy and Finance Ministry statement said. «It is permissible to set up and use gaming devices in areas used exclusively for habitation or residence, provided the use of the devices does not result in any form of financial gain for players or third parties,» the announcement added. The law – passed at the end of May and in application since July – stipulated that computer games were banned from «public places such as hotels, cafeterias, club halls and any other public or private place.» When presenting the law, the government admitted that this was the only way it could stop the proliferation of slot machines that had sprouted up in coffee shops, clubs and illegal gambling dens throughout the country. Although nobody has been arrested yet for playing computer games, half a dozen Internet cafe owners have been taken to court after police raids netted gamers – including chess players – on their premises. But in the first such trial, a Thessaloniki court threw out charges against three Internet cafe owners a fortnight ago, ruling that the law interfered with gamers’ freedom of expression. Yesterday’s announcement said computer games could be installed in «public or private areas totally unconnected with the provision of gaming services (such as civil service departments, private workplaces, shops selling legal games et cetera) provided the use of the devices does not result in any form of financial gain for players or third parties.» No mention was made of Internet cafes.

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