Sweden has been mulling re-regulation of its gambling market for years. After a lengthy period of deliberation, the country’s authorities finally introduced a new set of laws on 1st January 2019 when a true renaissance of the Swedish iGaming market began.
So what are the effects the newly regulated Swedish market could have from a more global perspective?
Sweden has been carrying the gambling torch for the rest of Europe ever since the Viking times. It could perhaps come as a surprise to learn these cold-blooded warriors would often use a game of dice to settle land disputes with Norway as early as in 11th century.
Anyway, the modern day gambling legalities have been trusted to the Swedish Gambling Authority (Lotteriinspektionen) which has, for years, battled illegal gambling activities in the country. As the gambling landscape expanded and headed towards the online universe, a state-owned company Svenska Spel was founded in 1997 with a mandate to protect customers.
Acting as a contemporary gaming Viking, Svenska Spel has, however, been in collision with the European Commission which has long criticized the monopoly this company held in the country.
The unstoppable advance of the online casino industry led to Svenska Spell becoming unable to prevent Swedes from visiting foreign casinos – as long as they were registered within the EU – and moves had to be taken. The monopoly led to Sweden losing market shares to international operators which is why a new gameplan has been introduced towards the end of 2018. To illustrate the financial momentum which pushed the Swedish government towards the new laws is the official data by Lotteriinspektionen reporting that the regulated part of Sweden’s gambling market generated SEK17.07 billion ($1.8 billion) revenue in 2017. During the same period of time, by contrast, the unregulated operators generated a whopping SEK5.534 billion ($607.97 billion).
Having crack opened its gaming window to foreign operators, Sweden introduced a new set of laws intended to increase government revenue share and build a safer gaming environment for Swedish players.
Companies which were to apply to a gaming licence in Sweden would have an option to choose from six different licence types. Licence prices varied from 400,000 to 700,000 SEK whereas the companies would be obliged to pay 18% tax for commercial gaming. Non-profit gambling activities would come with no taxes involved, whereas the proposed age limits were set to 18+ for online gambling and 21+ for the land based establishments. In a nutshell, the new law – allowing foreign-owned gambling companies to enter the market – was aimed towards cutting the legal grey areas, harnessing benefits for players, advertisers, operators and government as well.
The Swedish parliament passed the new law in June 2018 and the operators were given all clear to apply for the Swedish license as of 1st August 2018. Interest exceeded all expectations and Lotteriinspektionen went on to approve as much as 65 licenses until January 2019. Favourable tax rates – lower than 20% in neighbouring Denmark for instance – have had a great appeal for operators who rushed to tap into a lucrative Swedish gaming market which – as a major effect – could be well on its way to establish its dominant position in Europe.
Furthermore, the operators could end up tailoring their operations entirely towards Swedish requirements, further forcing all elements involved in this bulging gaming scene to up their game in order to appease the ever demanding Nordic gaming public. Top-notch operators have entered the Swedish market fully prepared and a list of only the best online casino operators catering to Swedish players can be found here on Best Casinos, where the most reputable businesses have been highlighted and identified.
When it comes to more immediate effects new changes could have on the online gaming market, Swedish regulations could spark a more local avalanche rather than a global one. Finland is one country keeping a close eye on Sweden in terms of re-regulation and could become the next European country to pull off a gambling reform.
Finnish players are not exactly restricted to state-owned casinos and are allowed to play at venues hosted outside the country. Having been officially recognised as fourth among the world’s biggest gamblers with around €2 billion spent on gambling each year, it is that lucrative revenue share accumulated mainly in the grey area that is under scrutiny. EU has yet to come hard on Finland but pressure exists.
Finland is expected to open up its gambling market to an outside world and the recent developments in Sweden could encourage Finnish law makers to make a step in that direction and propose a bill of their own.