Fifty-five online gaming companies have applied for a Swedish gambling license, according to Sweden’s regulatory agency, Lotteriinspektionen. Sweden’s new era of gambling regulations are set to begin on January 1, 2019.
Lotteriinspektionen said it received 60 license applications in all, but 55 of them are exclusively online gambling applications.
The time frame between passage of the 2018 Swedish gambling laws and implementation are less than 9 months, which has led to a hectic period for the licensing authority. Japan might take a year and a half to implement its casino gaming laws, while Pennsylvania has taken more than a year to launch online gambling and still does not have licensing decisions completed (much less any sites launched).
An official from the Swedish gambling regulator said not all of the applications were complete. Those companies which did not fill out a full application have been contacted to complete the process.
No Concrete Answers on Regulations
The agency criticized its own lack of preparedeness. An official said Lotteriinstpektionen does “not have concrete answers” to certain legitimate questions submitted by operators. The official said most of those questions involved responsible gambling compliance and matching other integrity obligations.
The same official said that officials “cannot provide advance notice” of the way marketing and advertising regulations will be interpreted. Anticipating a series of legal actions, the official said those issues will be settled “through jurisprudence“.
Camilla Rosenberg on Processing Applications
Camilla Rosenberg, the director general of Lotteriinspektionen, complained that the time frame between the legislation’s passage and implementation of the laws was “extremely short”. For that reason, the regulator is less interested in nailing down certain aspects of the law and more interested in processing license application.
The process involves more than paperwork. Each applicant must be vetted by government officials, so their history in Swedish gambling and the company’s global background must be investigated. Only when a full background check is done can decisions on applications be made.
Rosenberg said her agency’s “absolute priority in the autumn is to process applications and make decisions about licenses.”
Swedish Gaming Commission’s Authority
Sweden passed what it called “re-regulation of the gambling market” on April 5, 2018. The bill had a regulatory framework for moderation of gaming habits, including the mainline 21st Century responsible gambling measures, a self-exclusion list, and regulations to assure gaming operators moderate the play of their customers.
The bill also included provisions for blocking payments between Swedish residents and unlicensed gambling companies. The details of the payment blocking system have not been published yet, but the government has empowered the Swedish Gambling Authority to send warnings to unlicensed gaming operators that they will face sanction if they continue to accept real money play from Swedish residents.
It sounds like Sweden’s authorities will have a grace period where they give operators a chance to leave of their accord. If they persist, then the full regulatory authority of Sweden will block them — and possibly fine them. Promoting gambling without a license will be criminalized eventually. Gaming advertisements also might be banned, though it is still early in the process to know.
European Gaming Laws 2018
Many of the European gaming authority’s seem to be headed in the same direction. Most want to legalize, license, regulate, and tax online gambling activities. Several of them want to ban gambling advertisements, either in the sports arena or in general. Others seed to block IP addresses of unlicensed gaming sites, perhaps with fines attached to the blocking of domains.
Each of them has trouble collecting fines. Most gaming agencies argue they will take into account non-payment of fines if those gaming companies ever seek to enter the regulated market. To be successful, the various members of the EU are going to have to share their non-compliance information among themselves. Canada, the UK, and New Jersey agreed to enforce Australia’s 2017 ban on online poker sites and casinos. Before that, any amount of gaming regulations did not force companies to comply.
Whether that ever happens is another matter. It took ten years for countries like Sweden and the Czech Republic to comply with European Commission regulations. Before that, individual countries protected domestic operators while refusing to regulate international online gambling. Germany still is in that holding pattern. Whether the new agencies ever agree to cooperate is unknown, but it might take ten more years before they do.