The Swedish Riksdag approved a new Gambling Act which allows for licensing policies for international gaming operators. The regulations include application fees, as well as a wide-ranging new responsibilities for the Swedish Gambling Authority.
The full text of the Swedish Gambling Act 2018 is expected to be posted on Sweden’s government’s website on July 24. Application document forms will be posted, alongside guidelines for the gaming operators. Operators can begin to apply for licenses on August 1. Preliminary regulations and guidelines go into effect on September 1.
The full weight of the new Gambling Law becomes effective on January 1, 2019. The government rolled out its draft legislation for the more liberalized Swedish gambling laws in December 2017. It has taken several months of negotiation and refinement to nail down the final draft of the Gambling Act.
At the time, Ardalan Shekarabi, the Swedish Minister for Public Administration, said of the proposed new regulations: “We are now proposing legislation entailing that operators receiving a licence to conduct activities targeting Swedish consumers must comply with Swedish rules. This will also give us the tools to keep those without a licence out.”
“I am pleased that there is broad political consensus on the need for these reforms. We now need to continue our efforts and review the conditions for the equine industry and sports movement, both of which play an extremely important role in Swedish society.”
Swedish Gambling Act 2018
Under the new law, the Swedish government will maintain control over the major lotteries, land-based casinos, and even gaming machines located in brick-and-mortar gaming venues outside casinos. At the same time, the new law allows for liberalization of online gambling, so domestic and international operators can apply for a license to register Swedish players at online casinos, poker sites, bingo sites, sportsbooks, and virtual sportsbooks.
The new gambling act sets an 18% tax on online gambling activities. Swedish gaming operators said the tax level should allow them to compete with offshore operators. In the underground online gambling economy, offshore operators pay no taxes, so they can undercut the prices and promotions of legal online gambling sites.
Banning Unlicensed Sites thru IP Addresses?
The incentive for offshore operators to sign up for a license and pay taxes should be considerable — at least for those who are farsighted. Several European countries have passed laws that would require Internet service providers to block unlicensed offshore operators who try to circumvent gambling laws.
The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Norway all have taken steps in that direction over the past few months. While Sweden has no such provisions in the Gambling Act of 2018, such a law would be a natural addendum, if those laws prove effective in other countries and offshore operators continue to skirt Swedish law.
In such a case, those who operated as bad actors in the coming months could find themselves banned, while those who might have been unlicensed operators in the Swedish market in the past — but who have followed the law during the current grace period — would be allowed to continue signing up players. In short, the 18% tax puts all operators on the same level, so long as the law can bar unlicensed operators who do not pay the gaming tax.
2018 Swedish Gambling Law
On July 5, the Swedish government plans to authorize the Gambling Regulation, which covers certain policies not included in the Gambling Act. The Gambling Regulations spell out greater details about license application fees, along with the specific powers of the Swedish Gambling Authority.
The new laws and regulations seemingly bring to an end years of dispute between the Swedish government and the EU Commission over the nature of Sweden’s gaming laws. For years, the European Union’s top panel has said Swedish gambling laws circumvent EU trade laws.
In those years, Sweden’s government allowed domestic Swedish companies to operate, while barring international offshore gaming sites from signing up Swedish players. EU trade laws allow a national government to ban activities, but if it bars international companies from such activities, it must do the same for its own domestic companies. In the eyes of EU Commission members, if Sweden allows Swedish gaming companies access, but bars international gaming companies, it amounts to protectionism.
Ardalan Shekarabi on Gambling Act
Not so, according to Ardalan Shekarabi, the Swedish Minister for Public Administration. Shekarabi framed the new law as a way for the Swedish government to establish greater authority over its own gaming market.
Shekarabi said the Gambling Act allows the government to “regain control of the Swedish gambling market.”
Ardalan Sherakabi also noted that match-fixing was a perennial problem which is addressed in the Swedish Gambling Act. Sherakabi said, “Gambling activities must be conducted in a sound and safe way, subject to public supervision. This means gambling services must have a high level of consumer protection and safety, and that gambling services are not used to support criminal activities. Match fixing has no place in Swedish sport and must be stopped.”