January 14, 2009 / 11:26 AM / 10 years ago

UK's Stanleybet appeals closure of Greek outlets

ATHENS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - UK-based fixed-odds betting firm Stanleybet has appealed against Greece’s move to shut down the firm’s two shops in the country last year, it said on Wednesday.

In recent years, British bookmakers Stanleybet and William Hill (WMH.L) have unsuccesfully challenged Greek OPAP’s (OPAr.AT) monopoly in a bid to grab a niche of Greece’s lucrative sports betting market.

Stanleybet opened stores in Athens and in the northern city of Thessaloniki late last year but Greece shut them down for violating a law which protects OPAP’s exclusive rights on sports betting until 2020.

Stanleybet said at the time the move violated European Union law and called on the European Commission to act against Greece.

“We are determined to defend a regulated, fair and competitive sports betting market in Greece,” Stanleybet said in a statement. “We are confident about the outcome of our case to the benefit of Greek consumers.”

Analysts said Stanleybet’s move to open up stores in Greece was aimed at speeding up another legal case on its request for an operation licence in the country. The hearing of the case is still pending.

Stanleybet currently offers sports bets, mainly on soccer events, in Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Romania and Poland throught more than 1,500 outlets.

OPAP has about 5,500 outlets in Greece and Cyprus, with sales of 5 billion euros in 2007, including 2.5 billion on fixed-odds sports bets.

OPAP shares trade 9 times its estimated 2008 earnings compared with a multiple of 6 for Britain’s Ladbrokes LAD.L. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by David Cowell)

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