Volume: 17 Issue: 1
The Swedish Government announced on 21 December 2017 that it has sent its draft legislation, which aims to introduce a substantial reform of the Swedish gambling sector, including the availability for the first time of online licences to foreign operators, to the European Commission (‘EC’) for appraisal. The draft legislation follows proposals put forward following the Gaming License Inquiry review commissioned by the Swedish Government, the report on which was submitted to the Swedish Government on 31 March 2017.
“The new legislation is a complete overhaul of the current gambling framework,” explains Maria McDonald, Partner at Nordic Gambling. “Sweden will go from a monopoly system to one where online operators will be able to apply for a licence for online casino, including online bingo, and betting.”
Under the proposed new legislation, international online gambling operators may obtain licences to offer online gambling, subject to them meeting certain criteria. Operators will be able to obtain licences that are valid for a period of five years, and can expect a tax rate of 18% on their gaming revenue. As McDonald outlines, operators will be required to follow “specific criteria related to player registration, gambling accounts, responsible gambling, marketing, technical requirements and the processing of personal data. The gambling operations shall also be appropriate from a public point of view and conducted in a healthy and safe manner. A licence may furthermore only be granted to an entity that is deemed to have the knowledge, experience and organisation required to operate the business, that can be assumed to operate the business pursuant to laws and other regulations that govern the business and that is otherwise considered appropriate to operate the business.”
“The law itself is not controversial in this respect but the main concern is what further requirements will be included in secondary legislation which is expected to be issued by the Government and/or the Swedish Gambling Authority,” adds McDonald.
Currently an online monopoly is operated in Sweden by Svenska Spel AB. Under the new regime, state control will remain for some areas of gambling, for example land-based casinos and gaming machines located outside casinos, but areas such as online casino and online sports betting will open up to other operators.
Concerns raised about the draft legislation include that it only covers those operators who directly target Swedish citizens, and so operators not licensed in Sweden will be able to accept bets from Swedish citizens if the operator does not directly target the Swedish market. Additionally, McDonald notes that bonuses may prove to be an issue: “Bonuses will only be allowed the first time the player uses an operator’s products. Due to the wide definition of ‘bonus,’ it is not possible for operators to offer discounts or similar either. The risk is that the players will shop around with different operators and move on to play with operators not licensed in Sweden.”
The standstill period for the draft legislation is set to end on 20 March 2018. The Swedish Government aims to accept applications for licences under the new regime by July 2018.