On 1st June, most UK gambling operators and indeed, some of the sites we’re closely associated with, received messages from Google saying they were banned from Google.gr. It seems the Hellenic Gaming Commission, the gambling regulators in Greece, are on a mission to overhaul the Greek gaming sector, and they’re taking a lot of UK sites with them.
The notice, sent directly to webmasters, looks like this (redacted):
If you run a UK gambling site, there’s a good chance you have recently received an email from Google beginning, “Google has received a legal complaint regarding certain URLs from your website…” before noting that your site(s) will be removed from Google.gr searches.
It finishes by advising that you speak with a lawyer.
Firstly, there’s nothing to worry about here. This happened with pretty much all UK gambling websites (see a full list here). And unless you specifically targeted Greek customers, you probably won’t lose a lot of clicks or leads. In fact, as noted above, many UK gambling sites are no longer available in Greece, so it’s unlikely to impact your bottom line.
In 2002, the Greek government banned all video games from public and private places, threatening hefty fines and even prison sentences for those who broke the rules. It wasn’t an overreaction to the latest Grand Theft Auto release, but rather a heavy-handed way of fighting electronic gambling, and one that was later repealed.
Gambling is big business in Greece, and the government hasn’t always been very accepting of this fact, at least not when the operators are based overseas. In 2012, plans were drawn to monopolise the industry in favour of the state-run OPAP, and while this was deemed unlawful by the EU and blocked, the government responded by labelling RNG games “highly addictive”, and then licensing OPAP to operate physical slot machines nationwide.
We won’t get into the politics of that move, but needless to say, it angered a lot of operators.
Although it’s hard to know for certain, it seems that the sweeping block on UK gambling sites is a result of the Greek government blocking access to sites that aren’t expressively permitted to operate in Greece.
For several months, and maybe even several years, Greek visitors to UK sites have been met with “not permitted” warnings. One of the few exceptions is bet365, which operates a licensed domain under the .gr extension. However, it’s highly likely that some non-Greek sites have ignored the licensing situation and offered their services to Greek players.
What’s more, Greece has a close connection with the UK sports and betting industries. Many Greek bettors watch the Premier League, are exposed to UK betting sites, and actively use the likes of bet365. There’s a good chance that many of them were ignoring the restrictions and using VPNs to get around them.
In a way, these restrictions make sense, and will no doubt help to control the Greek gambling sector, one that operates with just a dozen or so licensed operators (most of which, including Stoiximan, predominantly focus on Greece). As with the video game ban in 2002, it feels like an overreaction, like napalming your garden because you saw a few dandelions. But that’s their prerogative, and it shouldn’t have much of an impact on UK operators and affiliates such as Gambling.Expert that only list UKGC-licensed sites for UK players.