Recently, the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) imposed a massive €24.6-million fine on the Greek gambling giant OPAP after it was found to have violated the country’s competition laws.
The investigation checked the country’s operations from 2017 to 2021. It was based on complaints from two groups – the Hellenic Cooperative of Professional Lotteries’ Agents (SEPPP) and a coalition of other representatives. They argued that the 2017 exclusivity agreement of OPAP featured “non-compete clauses” under Article 13 that eventually extended to primary activities.
OPAP faced accusations of violating the country’s competitive practices and exploiting its market dominance in order to generate profit, which raised concerns that the gambling operator violated both the European Union competition regulations and the Greek Competition Act.
As a result of the accusations, the Hellenic Competition Commission initiated an investigation of OPAP’s brick-and-mortar gaming activities, covering lotteries, state lotteries, horse-race and sports betting and gaming terminals, including OPAP Video Lottery Terminals and casino slot machines.
The operator’s primary services, such as money remittance, bill payment, and distribution of third-party products were also part of the checks.
After completing the investigation, the Greek gambling regulatory body concluded that OPAP violated the competition laws of both Greece and the European Union (EU) by engaging in activities that contravened the competition practices across all relevant markets. The watchdog further noted that the contractual commitments held by the operator in ancillary markets were found to impede innovation and competition, which potentially had an impact on service and product availability.
As a result of the investigation findings, OPAP was slapped with an order to cease these practices and received a warning of a €10,000 fine a day in case it failed to comply with the Hellenic Competition Commission’s order.
OPAP Disagrees with the Hellenic Competition Commission’s Decision
OPAP expressed a strong disagreement with the decision of the Greek gambling watchdog, calling it completely groundless.
The local gambling operator issued a statement, categorically denying the practices that the Hellenic Competition Commission attributed to it. It further announced its intention to appeal the regulatory body’s decision immediately before the relevant courts.
At the time it responded to the massive, €24.6-million fine, OPAP highlighted the fact that the decision of Greece’s gambling watchdog is associated with bill payment services and mobile top-up services offered by its agencies, rather than its ancillary gaming operations that are currently the core of its gaming business. Apart from that, the company explained that HCC’s order contradicts one of the authority’s prior decisions, as well as a large number of civil court rulings.
OPAP argued that the decision of the Hellenic Competition Commission was based on a flawed evaluation of market conditions, insufficient examination of the gathered evidence, a deficient data collection process, as well as an arbitrary interpretation of regulatory frameworks aimed at governing its operations.
Apart from sharing an intention to take the matter to court, OPAP criticised the recently imposed fine, saying that it was calculated based on the overall turnover of the company, rather than the turnover that was specifically attributed to the markets where the alleged breaches occurred.