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Sweden has a deep connection with the iGaming world. Online casinos, games designers and players are just some of the wide-ranging parties that have a vested interest in this form of entertainment, but the country’s laws don’t yet match this flexibility. If anyone has ever gambled in Sweden, either online or via a land-based establishment, they’ll probably be aware that the regulated domestic market is run by one company – government-backed Svenska Spel. While the purpose of this organisation’s formation way back in 1997 was based around protecting players, monopolies also arguably stifle competition.
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The bustling iGaming market has competitiveness as its motto, yet it’s estimated by Lotteriinspektionen, Sweden’s Gambling Authority, that 77% of Swedish betting is done within their regulations. This means that more than 3 in every 4 people aren’t deciding to choose their own platform to wager at, with Svenska Spel currently being the only regulated option.
However, we’re delighted to say that this monopoly looks to be coming to an end. The end of March brought music to Swedish online gambling players’ ears with the release of a state-sponsored report into the market’s future. It looks as though Svenska Spel’s hold over the general online gaming sphere in Sweden could well be coming to an end.
After an 18-month review, Lotteriinspektionen finally released their findings at the end of last month which recommended the dismantling of Svenska Spel’s dominance. It was suggested that Sweden’s online gaming industry could be opened up to international casino operators, with the hope that this would boost the regulated activity up to around 90% in total.
Sensibly, the Gaming Authority for Sweden have earmarked an 18% tax on gross revenue from online betting – a reasonable rate which shouldn’t cause too many headaches for prospective overseas casinos. It’s refreshing to see an objective stance being taken on the issue of tax, as authorities haven’t been quite as thoughtful in Pennsylvania on the same topic.
Lotteriinspektionen’s plans for the future of Sweden online betting would revolve around a licensing system that foreign-based casinos could apply for. Any interested parties would be able to apply, with the Gaming Authority deciding on the various criteria that would need to be met before issuing. It is a similar system to the one that Dutch online gambling is looking towards in the future, but perhaps with a bit more clarity.
One big change that would also be introduced is the view of unlicensed casino operations. Currently, these aren’t exiled even though they’re not exactly looked upon too favourably by Lotteriinspektionen, but a future with licensed foreign online casinos would completely change this. Any gambling platform which continued to offer their services within the country’s borders and wasn’t licensed would be subjected to severe penalties.
With regards to Svenska Spel, the changes being proposed won’t be met with complete disdain as they will still hold on to land-based casino operations plus lotteries. Furthermore, it has been reported that the Swedish government may be looking to privatise the gambling firm in future, as it could still sell for a high price.
The re-regulation of online gambling in Sweden effectively started when the European Commission began investigating whether Svenska Spel’s monopoly breached their rules. According to the EC, it was only acceptable to limit Swedes’ wagering options if it could be proved that this was being done for consumer interests. The commission had taken an interest in Svenska Spel way back in 2007, but marketing budget increases which suggested greedier motives really began to catch their eye.
Less than a year later in 2015, Lotteriinspektionen’s report was ordered. The government was coming under increasing pressure from the EC, so the results weren’t exactly much of a surprise. Also, foreign websites continue to gain popularity due to the advantages they offer, so it’s best for all parties that some form of regulation is placed into law.
Although the initial response from foreign online casinos has been almost completely positive, the general consensus is that the report should be acted upon as quickly as possible. Sweden’s current rules state that international gambling platforms cannot advertise their services to residents, something that has caused a few arguments over time. Re-regulation would, of course, solve this. Kindred Group, who own Unibet, were particularly adamant that a speedy solution should be found, suggesting that delays could threaten the very idea of reform.
So, how quickly are Swedish online betting reforms likely to happen? Unfortunately, there’s not exactly a concrete timeline as of yet, with this report merely being an advisory piece at this time. Official legislation needs to be drawn up, with the particulars discussed within government to iron out any potential clashes. Initial estimates claim that a draft may not appear until the end of the year. However, it’s likely to be approved before Sweden’s next general election in September 2018, with early 2019 certainly a plausible target for the reforms to become law.
As always, you can keep up to date with all the latest iGaming news here at Netent Casino.