Swedish offshore gambling promotion ban and German gambling debt case

The Swedish gambling offshore promotion ban and a German ruling on the legal status of a gambling debt.


Swedish court upholds offshore gambling promotion ban

In 2013 the Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen appealed an injunction imposed by the Swedish gambling authority because of the presence of links to foreign gambling sites on their websites. The papers appealed the decision, arguing that clickable website links do not constitute advertising also stating that the prohibition against promotion of offshore gambling services is incompatible with freedom of speech, EU principles and regulations.

However, as highlighted by our colleague Cristopher Buller, the Court of Appeal found that linking to foreign gaming advertising is a measure of a commercial nature not protected by the freedom of expression and confirmed the decision taken on the first instance.

The gambling advertising ban is a controversial topic in Sweden. In the last years, the Swedish Gambling Authority issued a number of similar injunctions against other media companies regarding the same type of linking. A new Swedish gambling act will enter into force on 1 January 2019. Among others provisions contained therein, the rules on the offshore advertising ban are aimed at punishing effectively the promotion of gambling operators that do not hold a local license.

In this respect, this measure is completely different from the Italian gambling advertising ban which applies to operators holding an Italian gaming license.

The enforceability of a gambling debt in Germany

The German District Court of Munich ruled that an online gambling casino debt could not be enforceable for a financial institution. The ruling comes from the legal action taken by Landesbank Berlin after a consumer refused to pay off a credit card debt while playing on an unnamed online casino site.

The player argued that the bank had no right to collect the amount due to online casino gambling being illegal in Germany. Accordingly, the court ruled that the bank potentially had the capability to identify the transaction as illegal gambling behaviour and had an obligation to prevent it taking place. Therefore, German banks could easily determine whether the online operators are on the list of approved operators and failure to identify an illegal gambler could interfere with the credit’s collection.

The German Sports Betting Association said that “this decision by a regional court is unlikely to set any binding precedent“. However, because there is not much case law on this topic, this interpretation, if confirmed, could have global repercussions for subjects that operate in a country without being licensed.

If you would like to receive more information on gaming law please contact me at @vincenzo.giuffre@dlapiper.com