In what is being called a “setback” to the cause of full legalization of Internet gaming, the European Court of Justice yesterday ruled that the national government may restrict the promotion of online gambling sites in Sweden. However, the court also ruled that the Swedish government cannot impose harder sanctions on the promotion of gambling organized outside the country.
The ruling came in a case the Swedish government was arguing against the editors and publishers of Swedish newspapers Expressen and Aftonbladet. In 2004, these newspaper ran advertisements for online sports betting. This was found to be a violation of Swedish gambling law in a Swedish court, with the publishers fined 50,000 Swedish crowns (approximately £4,370) and subsequently appealing to the ECJ.
Both sides weighed in to media after the verdict, with European Gaming and Betting Association secretary-general stating that “It is up to the legislator to embrace the reality of online gaming and betting in Europe. Italy, France and the UK have introduced online gaming legislation and Denmark is set to follow suit in 2011.”
Friedrich Stickler, president of the group European Lotteries representing 40 national lottery monopolies, said that “The court has given full backing to the gambling model we stand for, a model from which the whole of society benefits.”
The ECJ is reportedly currently examining the market practices of the Swedish gaming monopoly company Svenska Spel. Svenska Spel was recently ranked worst among European online gaming monopolies in terms of returns on bets.