The current gaming laws in Sweden place all the power of
gambling in the hands of a state-owned monopoly. Things are
changing however, as the European Commission has put great
pressure on Sweden to open the country the industry to
competition from foreign operators. The threat of EU sanctions
has prompted Swedish lawmakers to get serious about making
changes to the current system.
As it stands right now, all gambling in Sweden is controlled
by Svenska Spel. This includes control over the brick-and-mortar
business as well as online gambling. The only legal and licensed
gaming site in Sweden is operated by Svenska Spel, but gamblers
are under no obligation to limit themselves to that one option.
Like many other nations, Sweden has strict laws for those in
the business of gambling, but not for players. It’s not a
criminal offense to gamble online in Sweden and many foreign
operators cater to the Swedish market.
Svenska Spel may have the benefit of a monopoly over online
gambling, but the company is also subject to burdensome
regulations that make it difficult to compete with foreign
providers. For example, online poker at Svenska Spel is limited
to Swedes, which greatly limits the player pool. Many gamblers
in Sweden prefer to visit unlicensed operators for larger player
pools, better sports betting odds, and greater casino game
These gaming sites may be unlicensed in Sweden, but they do
hold licenses in other reputable jurisdictions. They are located
in places where online gambling is legal and argue they have no
obligation to follow the laws of other nations, especially when
those laws violate EU trade agreements.
Gaming Legislation in Sweden
There are two major pieces of legislation that shape online
gambling today in Sweden. Here’s a quick look at each.
The 1994 Lotteries Act
The Lotteries Act regulates how lotteries, guessing games
for money, bingo, gaming machines, roulette, dice games, and card
games may be run in Sweden. It gives full authority to the
Gaming Board of Sweden to issue licenses and ensure games are
The act covers a full range of activities, but the biggest
impact it had was to keep all lottery-style games in full view
of the state. Lotteries and other games may only be offered by
non-profit charity groups and government approved operators such
as the national lottery and certain horse racing groups.
In addition, the act makes it illegal to promote unlawful and
foreign lotteries. The stated goal of the Lotteries Act is to
ensure the games it regulates remain free from criminal activity
and do not harm the public welfare.
The 1999 Casinos Act
The Casinos Act was enacted in 1999 to further regulate
roulette games, dice games, card games, and “similar games
arranged on premises that are principally used for this
purpose.” Much of the legislation deals with land-based casinos.
It sets age limits, prohibitions on issuing credit to gamblers,
rules for keeping records, and a variety of other regulations
that pertain to running a gambling operation.
An amendment was added to the Lotteries Act in 2002 in order
to bring the legislation up to date with online gaming. The
amendment gave Svenska Spel the authority to host online games
and act as the sole licensed provider of internet betting in
Sweden vs. the EU
The European Union has long been on Sweden’s case for
breaking international trade agreements. The EU has stated
numerous times that the government monopoly on gambling is a
violation. Sweden has responded numerous times stating that it
has every intention for opening the market to foreign
competition and allowing operators to offer their services to
Things have become more serious in recent years as the EU has
threatened international sanctions on Sweden. This has prompted
the government to take the directives seriously and look into
opening the market to competition. The latest word we have is
Sweden plans to pass legislation by the end of 2014.
However, the Swedish government has a history of saying
“changes are imminent” without ever following through. Gambling
is very profitable for Sweden, and the government is reluctant to
open the industry to competition.
We believe Sweden is likely to pass this legislation
eventually. Swedes face no penalties for playing at unlicensed
sites, so the market is effectively already open to competition.
Sweden could easily loosen regulations on its one licensed
operator to make it more competitive while simultaneously
allowing foreign operators to enter the market, pay licensing
fees, and pay taxes.
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