ECJ FINES GREECE MILLIONS FOR SLOT MACHINE BAN

The European Court of Justice has ordered Greece to pay a fine of more than €3 million because it has failed to repeal a law that bans all types of slot machines in the country.

The court also ruled that Greece will have to pay a further penalty of €31,536 a day for each day that it fails to change the law so that slot machines can be restored to bars and cafes.

The law against electronic gambling was passed in 2002 to stop the operation of thousands of EGDs that had sprung up in arcades and cafes across the country because the government feared they were having a negative impact on small communities. It was then extended to cover all games in public areas apart from those in licensed casinos.

In October 2006 the ECJ found that the ban discriminated against other EU Member States because it violates guarantees of free movement of goods and services enshrined in EU treaty law.



UKRAINE BANISHES GAMBLING FROM POPULATION CENTERS

Ukrainian lawmakers have passed a measure that would ban all gambling until special zones for casinos are set up in the country.

The bill was initially adopted in May after a gambling-hall fire killed nine people. Lawmakers called on the government at that time to set up special areas where gambling could take place. They then overrode a presidential veto to get the bill passed, saying it would help fight widespread gambling addiction. President Viktor Yushchenko, who opposed the measure, said it would put 200,000 people out of work. But as a result of the legislative action he was required to sign the bill into law.

The law will take effect pending passage of new legislation similar to Russia’s confining gambling venues to special zones outside city centers. It prohibits casinos, slot arcades, betting shops and Internet gambling.

AGREEMENT REACHED IN UK ON FUNDING FOR PROBLEM GAMBLING

After months of deliberation UK gambling operators have finally agreed to a new formula of voluntary funding for problem gambling research, education and treatment.

The new arrangement, which will bring in at last £15 million over the next three years, forestalls a government threat to tax the industry to raise the money after the country’s Gambling Commission warned of a £1.2 million shortfall in this year’s funding requirements.

Gambling operators have made contributions on a voluntary basis since 2002 through the industry’s own Responsibility in Gambling Trust. For the last two years, however, funding targets were only achieved after major operators stepped up with more money.

Operators will continue to make voluntary contributions through the RIGT, with a new body, the Responsible Gambling Fund, set up to distribute the money. A new Responsible Gambling Strategy Board will work with the RGF to set priorities for research, education and treatment.

Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe said that while he was confident the new structure would be successful he warned operators that should it not work he would not hesitate to introduce a statutory levy.

CLARION SHUTS U.S. OFFICE IN CORPORATE SHAKEUP

Trade show and exhibition organizer Clarion Events has closed its U.S. office as part of a strategic restructuring of its Clarion Gaming division.

All activities handled by the suburban St Louis operation, located in the town of St. Charles, will be moved to London as part of the realignment.

Clarion also announced that Julian Graves has been appointed to the newly created UK post of managing director responsible for exhibitions, which include the annual International Gaming Expo and Amusement Trades Exhibition International, both held in London, and the Betting Show.

Graves, the former marketing and commercial director of Amusement Trades Exhibitions, which operated the shows before its purchase by Clarion, replaces Peter Rusbridge, who is leaving Clarion after 17 years.

“There has been a major resizing of the industries that we serve and the restructuring process is essential for all businesses in order to remain competitive and healthy,” said Graves.

As part of the restructuring Mark Walker will continue to run Clarion’s gaming conferences, which will be operated as a separate business unit.

Gran Scala inches forward in Aragon

The Governing Council of Aragon was set last month to approve legislation establishing a legal framework and other requirements for the massive mixed-use Gran Scala casino and resort project planned for the Spanish region.

The Law of Leisure Centers of High Capacity, as the measure is known, is seen as vital to helping finally get the project off the ground, said Council Vice President José Angel Biel.

Gran Scala’s promoters, London-based International Leisure Development, envision the project as a cross between Las Vegas and DisneyWorld with 32 themed casinos, 70 hotels, scores of restaurants and retail outlets, convention and meeting facilities, themed amusement parks, a golf course, racecourse, theaters, museums and residential housing. The total price tag is placed at €17 billion.

Following passage by the Governing Council, Biel said he believes the law will gain the support of the major political parties. Opponents don’t have enough seats in the regional parliament to block it, but led by Izquierda Unida, a coalition of leftists, greens and republicans, they were planning to gather in Zaragoza, the regional capital, last month to publicly demonstrate against the law.