Many of the top software providers in the iGaming industry have their roots in Sweden, most notably, NetEnt, Play’ N GO and Evolution Gaming. Numerous casino sites were also founded in the Nordic country according to CUSL. So clearly, the Swedes have a deep love for casino gambling and rich history in the practice. However, the legislature seemed to care little for the legal status of gambling until recently.
After being an unregulated market for a long time, Sweden took the leap to regulate gambling activities through the promulgation of the Swedish Gambling Act. The law took effect from the 1st of January, 2019, and according to the regulations stated therein, gambling operators without a Swedish license are illegal in the territory.
Brief History of Gambling Laws
Slipping into the past for a brief moment, we’ll see that there have only been three relevant gambling laws in the country:
- The 1994 Lotteries Act
- The 1999 Casinos Act
- The 2002 Amendment
The main focus of the “lotteries act,” as the name suggests, was to supervise lottery-style games within the state, prohibiting foreign lotteries. However, its scope also extended partially to gaming machines, card games, dice games, roulette, horse racing, etc.
The “casinos act” was a move to regulate casino games further. It stabilized restrictions and limits for operators as well as players. However, it focused solely on land-based gambling.
Then in 2002, the “lotteries act” was amended to accommodate online gambling, which was experiencing an uptrend at the time, with the advancement in internet technology. The amendment ultimately gave the Svenska Spel (a state-controlled body) a complete monopoly over online gambling operations within the territory.
The monopolistic nature of land-based gambling in the country has been a thing since time immemorial. The four gambling destinations and the casino ships available for players were all state-owned properties, and this state monopoly extended to online gambling until the Swedish Gambling Act was finally passed.
Regulations of The Gambling Act
The Act is accompanied by numerous secondary legislation guiding specific products like state lotteries, gaming machines, commercial betting, etc. Some of the important points covered by the Act include:
- Legal gambling age (18+ for online gambling and 21+ for land-based casinos)
- Cost of acquiring a license (between 300,000 and 700,000 SEK)
- Taxation for commercial gambling operators (18%)
- Six different types of licenses available
Three out of the six license types are open to private and international entities that fulfill the criteria, which was one of the major motives for pushing through with this law. The EU had since frowned at the Swedish government’s gambling monopoly since it violates the international trade agreements established by the organization. The Gambling Act is a step in line with those underlying principles.
Another significant aim of the Act is to make the gambling industry in Sweden safer for players by eliminating scam operators from the market. It also increases player protection by obliging licensed online casinos to implement adequate security measures, verify the accountability of their games, among a host of other things.
Too Many Restrictions
As a prohibitory law, any provision that isn’t stated in the Act is strictly prohibited. And the framework allows the legislature to limit gambling products further if necessary.
With so many restrictions, the number of operators that actually pass the screening of the Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen) are very few.
Swedes aren’t pleased by this either, as the licensed casinos are only allowed to offer a one-time welcome bonus, not to mention lower transaction limits. That is why players continue looking for offshore sites where they get higher limits, welcome packages, daily specials, loyalty rewards, and other offers that have practically become a standard at the online casino.
Joining a casino without a Swedish license comes with its drawbacks, though. Players aren’t protected by law, and there is no guarantee of safety and security. However, it seems the pros outweigh the cons for the bulk of Swedish players who now prefer to gamble at online casinos without a Swedish license.
The Current State of Things
As additional proposals are being made to include further restrictions on the Act, the situation isn’t completely stable. According to a news post by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EBGA), these constant regulatory changes are putting the success of the Swedish online gambling market in jeopardy.
It may appear the law is doing more harm than good, and there is a lot of opposition from casino operators with legal licenses in other jurisdictions who are looking to enter the Swedish market. However, only time will tell.
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