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Greece warned about gaming ban

The European Commission has warned the government of Greece about a law it passed last year that appeared to prohibit all computer games.

2 min read
The European Commission has warned the government of Greece about a law it passed last year that appeared to prohibit all computer games, a ban that stirred up anger after it resulted in several arrests and the closure of Internet cafes.

Although Greece later clarified that the law only prohibits gambling-related games, the commission was "unsatisfied" with the response and has sent a formal notice requesting more information. The commission said it is also concerned that it was not notified about the law while the law was still in its draft stages, which in this case was a requirement.

Struan Robertson, an attorney at Mason's, said Greece did not follow a European Commission directive that requires countries to give the commission three months' notice before passing a law that concerns "information society services." Robertson believes Greece's parliament never intended the law to ban all computer games. "The way the Greek law was drafted was an absolute mess. It was drafted so widely that using a PlayStation at home would amount to a breach of the law--which is ridiculous," he said.

The commission is also concerned that the law is restricting business activity by causing difficulties for companies that sell and maintain electronic games equipment and programs, particularly in public places.

In September 2002, just more than a month after the law was passed, a Greek court declared the law unconstitutional and dismissed two separate cases against three persons charged with breaking it. The Thessaloniki court released the three people, who were facing three months imprisonment and fines.

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All three were understood to be involved in or running Internet cafes. But according to a Greek Web site, the officers who had searched the cafes said during testimony that they did not observe any Internet gambling going on--just chess and other non-gambling games over the Internet.

The next step will be for the Greek government to respond, but whatever they do, Robertson said it is "quite rare" for the commission to go any further: "Whether this will result in the withdrawal or amendment to the law or a clarification on how it should be interpreted, we don't yet know. They tend to be drawn-out processes. But the likelihood of any further action being taken is probably quite low," he added.

ZDNet UK's Munir Kotadia reported from London.
ZDNet UK's Matt Loney contributed to this report.