Gambling in Sweden: A Monopoly soon to be Loosened?
November 26, 2015 6:43 PM

Gambling in Sweden: A Monopoly soon to be Loosened?

Gambling is a popular activity in Sweden, whether online or in the actual casinos. Yet, this takes place in less than ideal conditions under lock and key of the Swedish government and its official apparatus. Formed initially in 1997, the state-controlled AB Svenska Spel and AB Trav och Galopp (ATG) control everything in the gambling arena: this includes sports betting, real life gaming machines, casinos, poker games regulation, lotteries, as well horse racing. Still, while it is possible to pay out in real cash virtually or in person for these services, the reality is that half of the country’s online gaming market consists of traffic and money that is not controlled by these governing bodies.

Disconnect Between Legislation and Market Demands

This data has led Sweden’s Secretary General of the Association of Online ambling Operators, Gustaf Hoffstedt, to accelerate plans to introduce new laws on this very issue. Ostensibly, this new legislation will curb the grip the AB Svenska Spel and ATG have on the market, opening new doors for gambling operators from abroad to legally have clients from within the country’s borders. He recently said that ‘Sweden’s gambling legislation has traditionally been and still is very disconnected from the realities and demands of the market.’

This is significant because the last time there was any sort of rhetoric concerning changing the laws around online gambling came over a year ago. When Ardalan Shekarabi, the Minister of Public Administration, said in October of 2014 that the government wanted to ‘accelerate the work that is currently taking place to find a licensing system which can be implemented in Sweden,’ this came as welcome news to gamblers and foreign gambling companies alike, who already had a relationship, just not legally. Since then, only discouraging news had come out, with the same minister announcing in a video message less than half a year later at the Nya Spel-Sverige conference in Stockholm that changes in regulation were in fact not on the government’s agenda.

Hope for Common Sense Change

Until this public proclamation that the current structure is not effective, one could not be faulted for being confused over both the anachronistic policy and the inconsistent messages being relayed to the public. That, in spite of the fact that the country has roundly been criticised by the European Nations and its constituent states. The European Commission and European Court of Justice said in October of 2014 of the anticompetitive effect of the stifling monopoly that ‘imposing restrictions on the organisation and promotion of online betting services in a way is inconsistent with EU law.’ Perhaps it should come as no surprise that in the face of upstart home-grown Swedish companies vying for a piece of the market share pie, they were mostly stagnant while Svenska Spel raked in massive amounts of annual revenue.

For those aspiring new online casinos 2016 eyeing the Swedish market, it is advisable to not hold their collective breath for any legislative changes any time soon. For, the time schedule for any sort of change to take place would involve an inquiry starting now; then a report from said inquiry around the winter of 2016 or the beginning of 2017; following, a springtime dialogue with stakeholders in 2017; an autumnal proposal to the Council on Legislation for new gambling laws along with notification to the European Union in 2017; and finally, a December 2017 bill from the government to the parliament, which then have to be passed in order to be enacted. As one can see, it represents an exhaustive process with lots of red tape, which takes an eternity.

Still, gamblers and foreign operators alike are holding out for some common sense legislation to finally pass.
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Gambling in Sweden: A Monopoly soon to be Loosened?