Swedish Proposals For Gambling Reform On The Way To The European Commission

Draft gambling legislation submitted for EC opinion and approval

Thursday was a break-through day for gambling reform and a more liberal approach to online gambling by the Swedish government as draft proposals for the long-awaited changes were completed and dispatched to the European Commission for its consideration.

In an statement announcing progress, Ardalan Shekarabi , the Minister for Public Administration said the government’s intent was to regain control of the Swedish gambling market after recent figures from the local regulator Lotteriinspektionen showed that internationally licensed online gambling operators currently dominate a quarter of the Swedish market.

The submission to the EC means that Sweden is now bound by a mandatory standstill through to March 20 next year. If all goes well the government could be accepting licence applications just after mid-year, enabling operators to start accessing Swedish punters early in 2019.

The draft legislation details a market in which land casino activity remains the preserve of the Swedish government, along with gaming machines not on casino premises and major lotteries.

Online sports, bingo, casino and other online betting products will be open for acceptable applicants to apply for operating licenses.

The online licenses will have a life of five years, and successful operators will be taxed at 18 percent of GGR accrued from Swedish gamblers.

Other requirements are that servers must be located on Swedish soil, although there is some flexibility in that the regulator can make exceptions for operators in jurisdictions which the Swedish regulator views as acceptable, or for operators who agree to give the Swedish regulator access to their offshore servers for purposes of inspection.

Operators in jurisdictions outside the European Economic Area must additionally establish a representative as a presence in Sweden.

The legislation places strong emphasis on player protection, with punters required to set deposit limits, and incentive bonuses and credit available only to punters on their initial sign-up and registration.

The minimum age for gamblers is set at 18 years, which is ratcheted up to 20 years in respect of entry to land casinos.

Severe financial penalties have been legislated for operator non-compliance with the regulations, and for unauthorised operators accessing Swedish players.

Measures to keep unauthorised activity out of the market include provisions for the regulator to demand that ISP companies block access to illegal websites, and the power to require banks to block financial transactions with illegal operators.