Swedish Online Gambling ‘Re-regulation’ Gets 22 Takers

Posted on: August 2, 2018, 09:40h. 

Last updated on: June 17, 2019, 03:47h.

The brand-new Swedish online gaming licensing regime began accepting applicants on Wednesday, with 22 operators submitting paperwork to join the market on day one.

Swedish online gambling
Pontus Lindwall’s company Bettson was among the exiled Swedish operators applying for a license, but the Kindred Group was conspicuous by its absence yesterday. The latter believes former monopoly Svenska Spel should have been privatized or split to ensure a level playing field. (Image: Betsson)

Among them were notable industry pioneers with Swedish origins, such as Betsson and Expekt — companies exiled from their home country for the best part of 20 years under the previous monopolistic system.

According to iGamingBusiness, up to 70 license applications are expected to be made before the new rules come into effect on January 1, 2019.

Sweden’s so called ‘re-regulation’ will break the longstanding government monopoly and open the market for the first time to international operators. These new operators will be taxed at 18 percent and will be required to adhere to “strict requirements for moderation in marketing gambling.”

Former Monopoly Svenska Spel Applies

Also among the applicants yesterday was state-owned former gambling monopoly Svenska Spel. The government resisted calls to privatize Svenska Spel and its state-owned land-based casinos, which has irritated some potential licensees.

While Svenska Spel’s online gambling operations will join the new competitive market, its land-based operations will remain tax free, as “state-owned games.” Some operators believe this gives it an unfair market advantage.

Another Swedish online gambling pioneer, the Kindred Group, has been the loudest voice of dissent and has called for Svenska Spel to be, if not privatized, at least split into two distinct commercial and non-commercial entities.

Kindred, which owns the Unibet, LeoVegas, and 32 Red brands, among others, was conspicuous by its absence among yesterday’s license applicants.

“The Ministry of Enterprise [owner of Svenska Spel] and the Ministry of Finance [responsible for legislation on gambling] has so far acted in opposite directions,” said Kindred’s Head of Public Affairs Nordics, Peter Alling, recently.

“Here, the government still has a responsibility it can’t avoid. Failure to deal professionally with the split, not adhering to basic competition regulations, will seriously endanger the outcome of the reform.”

Betsson’s Coming Home

Betsson’s CEO Pontus Lindwall struck a more optimistic note in a recent blogpost, however.

Sweden is our home turf,” said Lindwall. “We’re a Swedish top company within the industry, and we’ve been in this market for a very long time. I think it’s great that it opens up for regulation and for license applications.”

Sweden’s decision to open up its market came after legal threats from the European Union, which contested that the state-owned monopoly violated its rules on the free cross-border movement of services within the trading bloc. The EU said Sweden could not prosecute online gambling operators while it maintained a gambling monopoly.