Minister Says Sweden's Gambling Monopoly is Here to Stay
On Monday, Sweden's Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi said the country will consider the possibility to loosen its regulation of online gambling only once the country will have a budget that allows it to do so.
Joining the Nya Spel-Sverige conference held in Stockholm with a video message, Shekarabi explained that Sweden is not currently planning to take the monopoly off Svenska Spel's hands, and clarified that the opening of the country's gambling market is not on the government's agenda.
As GamingIntelligence reports, the Minister's words came as a cold shower for the organizers of the event, as they promised that the conference would have been a "historical event" for the gambling industry in Sweden.
Although some, like the country's economic expert David Sundén, believe that the government does not intend to work on any gambling reform before the end of its mandate in 2018, it is unclear how this will match the pressure that comes directly from the European Commission.
In October 2014, Europe's highest institution started an official legal action against Sweden to claim that the current gambling regulation is against EU laws.
"Sweden is referred to the European Court of Justice for imposing restrictions on the organization and promotion of online betting services in a way which is inconsistent with EU law," the Commission publicly declared in a statement. "Changes to the Swedish gambling law in order to make it compliant with EU law have long been envisaged, but never implemented."
In relation to poker games, the European Commission accused the Swedish government "to not exercise adequate control over the exclusive right holder," and added that the policies adopted to fight against gray-area operators that target Swedish players are inconsistent.
The bureaucratic battle between the European Commission and Sweden, however, goes back to almost a decade ago, as the European institution first questioned the legitimacy of Sweden's gambling laws and their compliance with the European treaties regulating the free movement of services within the European Union.
Shekarabi's words about the future of the gambling monopoly, however, have been surely welcomed by Sweden's monopolistic company Svenska Spel, as the only room authorized to offer online poker games to Swedish players faces one of the most complicated moments in its history.
Challenged by the presence of numerous international operators that illegally offer their games to Swedes and by some self-imposed responsible gaming policies, Svenska Spel has seen its revenue drop until the point that it has decided to explore new verticals and ask the country's authorities for a license to launch Sweden's first-ever legal online casino.
"We sent in an application last June or July," Press Officer at Svenska Spel Johan Tisell told PokerNews. "When we can anticipate an answer is really difficult to say [because] there's been a change in government, and now they may be focused on entirely different issues than our application. We hope to get an answer before the summer of this year."
Svenska Spel's determination to explore the online casino vertical has also been discussed by the company's CEO Lennart Käll, who said that a Svenska Spel-run online casino would help the country by offering Sweden's casino players a safe and regulated online gaming environment.