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Greek games ban breaks EC rules

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The European Commission yesterday issued a warning against Greece for passing a law to crack down on Internet gambling.

A blanket ban was introduced in July 2002 on all electrical, electromechanical and electronic games, including computer games, in all public and private places, including cybercafés, with the exception of casinos.

The Commission thinks this is incompatible with EC Treaty provisions for the free movement of goods and services and the freedom of establishment. Also it says that Greece may have infringed EC rules that member countries should alert the Commision to national regulations at the draft stage in respect of on-line goods and services.

In a letter sent to the Greek Government in October 2002, The Commission said the ban "could in practice restrict the import of these products in contravention of the rules of the EC Treaty on the free movement of goods".

In a statement yesterday, the Commission said it now
"extends its doubts regarding the compatibility of the measure with the freedoms to provide services and of establishment and with Directive 98/34....In particular, such an arrangement could be disproportionate, insofar as it tends to encompass, on the one hand, equipment (slot machines) and games of chance which might give rise to social concerns and, on the other, games of an entirely different nature which are not, in themselves, a source of particular disquiet with regard to public order or consumer protection."

The Commission has notified Greece that it is to begin infringement proceedings against the country. ®

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