Sweden: Latest development regarding the review of the Swedish gambling legislation

By 30 November 2014, a governmentally appointed investigator shall present his or her view on the necessary amendments of the Swedish prohibition against the promotion of unlicensed gambling. In addition, the investigator has been instructed to review an alternative system for injunctions.

The Swedish gambling legislation does not contain any specific provisions regarding the marketing of gambling services. Thus, in contrast with tobacco and alcohol, there is no general prohibition against the marketing of gambling services. Instead, the Lotteries Act contains a prohibition against the promotion of unlicensed gambling, organized within Sweden or abroad. Furthermore, the Swedish Marketing Act lays down general requirements that all marketing activities must comply with.

As a result of protection granted to the media by the Fundamental Law on the Freedom of Expression and the Freedom of the Press Act, the Lotteries Act’s civil sanctions against the promotion of unlicensed gambling have proven inadequate to prevent advertisement of unlicensed gambling in Sweden. Furthermore, since the Lotteries Act has stricter criminal sanctions for the promotion of foreign lotteries than of national lotteries, the Swedish Supreme Court has declared the criminal sanctions incompatible with the EU law on grounds of discrimination. As a result, despite the Lotteries Act’s prohibition against the promotion of unlicensed gambling and the Swedish Gambling Authority’s efforts to prevent marketing of unlicensed gambling services in Sweden, advertisement of unlicensed gambling are common in Swedish television, radio, newspapers and other media.

In light hereof, the Swedish government has just announced that it has appointed an investigator to address the following issues by 30 November 2014:

  • Which amendments are required in the Lotteries Act to avoid the distinction between Swedish and foreign lotteries.
  • How should the provisions regarding criminal sanctions against the promotion of unlicensed gambling be formulated to apply to both foreign and national lotteries.

Under the current gambling regime, both the decision regarding injunctions issued under a penalty of a fine and the imposing of fines may be appealed in three court instances. This has made it difficult to impose fines. To address this issue, the investigator has also been instructed to consider another system for injunctions.