The European Court of Justice has once again ruled in favor of monopolistic gambling laws, this time supporting Sweden as it attempts to tackle online gambling advertisements. Swedish gambling laws contain a rule that prohibits online gambling sites in other EU member states from promoting and advertising their services to Swedish citizens, because such advertisements work against the state’s monopoly over all internet gambling in the country.
The lawsuit was actually internal, with the Swedish state going against the publishers of two Swedish newspapers, Aftonbladet and Expressen. These newspapers published adverts back in 2004 for foreign internet gambling websites that offered internet betting in Sweden. The Swedish court ruled that the advertisements were illegal, and the newspaper publishers faced heavy fines. The case was appealed, and the EJC recently upheld the Swedish ruling, stating once again that EU member states can legally restrict access to services from other member states on grounds of public policy, public security or public health.
Basically, because Sweden’s gambling monopoly is structured in such a way that it benefits public interests by pouring money back into the system (supporting sports clubs, for example), the EJC says that the monopoly can continue to exist, in spite of the fact that it stands in apparent opposition to EU free trade laws.
The only caveat the EJC added to the ruling is that fines levied by Swedish authorities against groups that illegally advertise internet gambling must be no greater than similar fines levied by other EU governments. Higher fines would be considered to be discriminatory, and would be found in breach of EU laws.
While Sweden’s stance against foreign-hosted internet gambling sites is far from friendly, the lack of local alternatives means that local players continue to gamble at foreign websites that offer internet gambling in Sweden.