How Sweden Overhauled Its Gambling Regulation
Sweden is home to some of the biggest European gambling groups – it has the Kindred Group, the company behind the well-known Unibet brand, and Betsson, a business covering several Nordic countries. Despite such major brands calling it home, Sweden’s local gambling market was a state monopoly – officially, at least. International operators did target the Swedish market indirectly, operating under a Maltese or Gibraltar license, siphoning away some of the local operator’s profits, operating in a “grey market”. Of course, this called for a change. Sweden’s new gambling regulation aims to bring the grey market to the light by offering operators the possibility to get licensed.
In short, the Swedish gambling regulator has devised six different types of licenses, including one for sports betting and one for casino services online. These licenses are rather broad – they cover poker, bingo, and casino games on one side, sports betting, horse racing, and even betting on lotteries. The licenses are valid for five years, and operators have to pay a tax worth 18% of their operating revenue.
Although the regulation seems pretty broad and permissive, it doesn’t take control of the industry out of the government’s hands. The regulations cover bonuses, one of the most attractive marketing tools casino operators have to offer – they can only be offered to first-time players. Players are bound to set mandatory deposit limits – daily, weekly, and monthly – as a first step to prevent addiction, and license holders are required to take every possible measure to prevent problem gambling. The regulator has even introduced a “National Self Exclusion Registry” where players can register.
When it comes to advertising gambling services, the new gambling law has regulations concerning it – promoting gambling services to underage individuals is, for example, strictly prohibited. Not even the payment processors have escaped regulation: based on a court order, they are bound to block any payments to and from unlicensed operators as per the instructions of the local Gaming Authority. Moreover, if the Gaming Authority orders it, ISPs will have to display a warning message whenever a Swedish player tries to access an unlicensed gambling outlet.
The state monopoly on gambling has been maintained only in the case of the lottery. Svenska Spel has been split into two companies: one of them will continue to provide local gamblers with casino and poker services both online and in real life, while the other will operate the lotteries – the latter will be the sole entity allowed to do so with the exception of charitable lotteries. At the same time, ATG, Sweden’s horserace operator, has received a license to expand its services with casino games.
The effects of the new regulation have begun showing weeks after its enactment. In a couple of months, the Gaming Authority has issued more than 116 licenses – some of them to major international groups that didn’t have access to the Swedish market before – officially, at least. The long-term effects of this regulation remain to be seen – but similar measures have been successfully implemented in other countries in the past.