Gambling regulators across the world are constantly grappling with regulation, and how best to structure their domestic gambling laws. From any government’s point of view, it’s essential to regulate gambling to ensure a fair, legitimate playing field for customers, while providing the legal infrastructure to tax gambling operators for doing business in their market.
Sweden is no different, and back in April 2018, the government adopted a bill entitled ‘A re-regulated gambling market’ in to law – a bill resulting in a new gambling act, and a fresh licensing regime for Swedish casinos.
Commenting on the proposals at the time, Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi said the law would bring unregulated gambling in Sweden to an end, allowing the government to regain its grip over the gambling sector.
Unregulated gambling has taken over and gambling is used in criminal activities. It is 14 years since the first of a line of gambling inquiries was appointed. It is now time for us to move from words to action and regain control of the Swedish gambling market.
We are reinforcing the Swedish Gambling Authority, granting it more and sharper tools. Unlicensed operators will be shut out of the market and license-holders must conduct their activities in accordance with the law.
With applications for new licences accepted from August 2018, the wheels of these new gambling regulations are already in motion ahead of the new law coming into force in 2019.
But what does the act mean for operators and players, and which, if any, casinos have started the process of obtaining a licence under the new law so far?
New Regulation for Sweden’s Gambling Sector
The new regulations create a totally different environment for Sweden’s gambling operators. Those that are not licenced in Sweden will now be required to close their doors to Swedish gamblers, with only licenced operators permitted to accept bets from Swedish players.
The new measures are expected to come into force at the beginning of January 2019, from which date, any operators must pay a licence fee of $83,260 for a combined licence to operate online casino and sports betting services.
The law gives the Swedish Gambling Authority the power to instruct ISPs to block payments to unlicensed operators, as well as displaying warning messages to users attempting to access their sites. The act of offering gambling without a licence is due to become a criminal offence.
The new regulations also introduce swathes of protections for Swedish players, including a right to self-exclusion, along with a ban on operators offering bonuses and promotions (except for first deposit bonuses).
As well as further restrictions on gambling advertising, operators will also now be obliged to protect players from ‘excessive wagering’, with the regulator authorised to fine or revoke license for those in breach of their licencing conditions.
Why Is Regulation Necessary?
Previously, it was effectively illegal for anyone to operate gambling services in Sweden – unless they were a not-for-profit organisation or a state-owned company.
However, in reality, the Swedish market was still being served by online casino and sports betting operators.
This created the competitive dynamic within the Swedish market, flouting the laws in place at the time. And with a comparatively weak regulator and no official licencing system of its own for commercial operators, the Swedish government found itself consistently cut out the loop.
This would be cause for concern for any government, primarily in respect of lost tax revenue. Every bet is an opportunity for the government to take a share, and with unregulated operators running amok, the Swedish government has felt compelled to act.
Of course, the new legislation also makes extensive provision for protecting gamblers, including those vulnerable to problem gambling, through a raft of tight new measures.
The new law will see Sweden’s gambling market brought within government control for the first time since online casinos became popular. With some incumbents potentially facing ejection from the market if they don’t comply with the new rules, the change in law is sure to shake up the gambling scene in Sweden for both operators and customers.
Which Casinos Already Have A Licence?
On the first day of launch for the new licencing procedure, the Swedish government received applications from no fewer than 22 operators. The likes of Betsson and Svenska Spel were perhaps predictably amongst them, alongside the likes of Rizk Casino, Bwin, Cherry and Expekt.
There has been no confirmation of licences successfully granted to date, though it is expected that the majority of these applications will be approved.
Intriguingly, not every operator was represented, with Leo Vegas, Mr Green and Unibet absent from the lineup. By the time re-regulation kicks in in January, analysts expect as many as 70 different operators to have applied for a new-style gambling licence.
Betsson’s chief executive Pontus Lindwall said his company welcomed the new licencing regime, and look forward to obtaining their licence in due course.
Sweden is our home turf…We’re a Swedish top company within the industry, and we’ve been in this market for a very long time. I think it’s great that it opens up for regulation and for license applications.
We’ve been operating on this market for a long time and now we will get better possibilities for marketing, sponsorships, and PR that’s good. But in most of our operations I think we will be operating as before but under the new regulation.
It remains to be seen whether more casinos, as expected will follow suit.
What This Means for Swedish Gamblers
From January 2019, it’s recommended that you only play with Swedish-licenced casinos. This will ensure you are dealing with operators officially permitted to accept your bets, and subject to the watchful eye of the newly empowered Swedish Gambling Authority.
Continuing to play with international casinos risks your payments being blocked, and could void any rights and protections for you as a player under the new gambling act. Fortunately, with so many casinos already in the process of applying for licences, it looks like you won’t be short on choice when the new law does eventually begins to take effect.