Sweden: No changes to the Swedish Gambling Regulation for another two years

The Swedish gambling legislation and monopoly solution has been subject to debate for numerous years, but has lately been fuelled by a Supreme Court ruling.

Under the current Swedish gaming legislation, it is not possible for private commercial entities to obtain a gambling license, which is required to organize a lottery in Sweden. However, Swedish citizens may freely access and participate in gambling services offered to Swedish customers via the Internet. Thus, the market for off shore gambling services offered to Swedish citizens are increasing in a fast pace. While Swedish citizens may freely access and participate in off shore gambling services offered via the Internet, the Swedish Lotteries Act contains an explicit prohibition against the promotion of unlicensed gambling activities organized within Sweden and gambling activities organized abroad. Furthermore, while violation against the promotion of unlicensed lotteries organized within Sweden is subject to civil penalty provisions, the prohibition against promotion of lotteries organized abroad is subject to a criminal penalty provisions.

The Supreme Court case concerned two editors-in-chief were accused of allowing the publication of a series of advertisements for foreign gambling companies, thereby promoting gambling activities organized abroad. The editors-in-chiefs contested the claim and replied that Swedish Lotteries Act were discriminatory and constituted a breach of EU-law. The case was referred to the ECJ, which, in essence, stated that there is no discrimination as long as the two infringements receive equivalent treatment. In light of the ECJ’s statement, the Supreme Court held that the Swedish Lotteries Act was discriminatory and therefore unenforceable against the defendants. In effect, there has been an dramatic increase in marketing for off shore gambling services offered via the Internet to Swedish citizens and it seems safe to assume there is currently no risk of criminal sanctions when allowing advertisements of such services.

In light of the Supreme Court ruling, the Swedish government has been under pressure to propose a new Swedish gambling legislation. In fact, there have been rumors that a new more liberal and deregulated legislation would be proposed during spring/summer 2013. Now, Peter Norman, Minister for Financial Markets, has clarified that while the Swedish gambling legislation will be subject to a thorough review, a proposal for a new gambling legislation should not be expected until after the election in 2014. Thus, in our assessment, a new legislation will probably not enter into force until 2016.

At this point in time, it is difficult to foresee if such a proposal would be more liberal than the current gambling legislation. However, Peter Norman, has pointed out that marketing, gambling addiction, age limits and age verifications are issues of specific concern.

Hopefully, the debate and the criticism will speed up the legislative process towards a regulated market where domestic and foreign operators will receive licenses to provide gambling services to the Swedish market. However, in light of Peter Norman’s statement, it seems unlikely that the Swedish government would re-schedule.