Following the closure of Stanleybet’s retail outlets in Greece last November by police just days after their launch, the Athens Administrative Court of First Instance on Wednesday provisionally ordered the sealing of the Athens Stanleybet shop to be lifted, allowing it to once again reopen for business.
Stanleybet International opened two betting shops in Greece in late October, one in the Capital Athens and a second in the city of Thessalonica. The branded outlets focused on football betting and a number of seasonal sporting events, delivered as a face-to-face service to customers in order to assure them of the quality and transparency of the transaction.
On November 6th 2008 Greek police raided the stores, resulting in the arrest of a number of Stanleybet employees and customers present at the time of the raid. All those arrested were subsequently released, however both shops were closed down.
The company said the actions of the Greek authorities were in direct contravention of Article 49 of the EC Treaty which guarantees the right of European companies to provide cross-border services.
Commenting on the decision of the Athens court on Wednesday, Adrian Morris, Deputy Managing Director of Stanleybet International said: “Although today’s court decision is purely procedural, we interpret this as a first move by the Greek courts to acknowledge our right to offer our innovative sports betting services to Greek consumers. In addition, it is a clear indication that Greek judges apply laws consistently and without hesitation.
“Our continuing goal is to create a free, competitive and regulated betting market in Greece, fully compliant with EU law. We have called on the Greek government to comply fully with its EU obligations and we intend to open new shops in the coming weeks.”
In February 2008 the European Commission increased pressure on Greece to liberalise its gambling market by issuing a final warning over its restrictive policies. The Commission said at the time that increasing levels of advertising spend and the introduction of new and addictive games, without effective measures to counter gambling addiction, demonstrated that maintaining public health was not a motivating factor behind the existence of the Greek monopoly. The EC has since however been seen to be inactive in pursuing state monopolies which continue to flout European law.