September 11, 2002 10:46 AM PDT

Greek gaming law defeated in court

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In Greece, use a GameBoy, go to jail

September 3, 2002
A new Greek law banning the playing of electronic games was declared unconstitutional by a judge, and the charges against three people were dismissed.

The decision by a judge in Thessaloniki, Greece, could eventually result in the law being repealed, according to reports in the local press.

Before Tuesday's decision, computer game players and Internet cafe owners in Greece said they would fight the law. According to opponents, the law was conceived to address illicit gambling but was written so broadly that playing any electronic game could be considered illegal.

Indeed, the three people released Tuesday operated or worked at Internet cafes, and, according to a Greek news Web site, the police officers who searched the cafes testified that they did not observe any Internet gambling going on--just customers playing chess and other non-gambling games over the Internet.

A draft of the bill, which was brought before the Greek parliament at the end of May, stated clearly that all games supported by electrical, electromechanical and software means were banned from public places, according to Nikos Kakayanis, managing director of a string of Internet cafes called The Web. A board member of The Web, Christos Iordanidis, was among those facing charges Tuesday.

When the bill was discussed again in July, said Kakayanis, "a member of the opposition party expressed concern that it would only be a matter of time before the owners of illegal gambling machines moved whatever machines they were using for gambling (coin-ops, PCs, consoles) from their stores (to) private places." As a result, the law was modified to include every private place as well, said Kakayanis.

"Nobody from the members of the parliament realized or could foresee the effects that this would have for PC games, Internet games and game consoles, simply because they are not familiar with that side of technology," Kakayanis added. The bill became law July 30.

Each of the three people charged with violating the law faced up to three months imprisonment and a fine of about $5,000.


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