The state monopoly of gambling operator Svenska Spel has been under fire from various sides, putting pressure on the government to change the current Swedish gambling laws.
A Supreme Court decision earlier this year deemed that the advertising provisions in these laws – the Swedish Lotteries Act, to be exact – are discriminatory, inasmuch as the promotion of unlicensed domestic gambling carries a civil penalty, while criminal penalties are to be handed down for the promotion of foreign activities.
Participating in such activities is, however, legal.
The legality of foreign online casinos in Sweden is in a legal limbo, with domestic gamblers being allowed to play there, and with foreign operators facing an unenforceable ban on advertising.
“It is still banned under the Lotteries Act to promote a lottery organized abroad, but one can not be punished for violating it,” commented the Gaming Board’s Director General, Hakan Hallstedt, in the wake of the court’s decision last December.
“Since the civil penalties are not adequate to regulate advertising, it is difficult in practice to prevent foreign gambling companies from advertising in Sweden at the moment. If the politicians want to ensure that any solicitation for a foreign lottery is a criminal offence, then they must change the Lotteries Act,” added Hallstedt.
These changes started getting underway, with rumors circulating on Swedish gambling news sites that a new bill could be voted on before the end of this legislative term in 2014. Comments by Financial Markets Minister Peter Norman earlier this month dampened those expectations.
According to the politician the Swedish government will study the Danish and Norwegian models more thoroughly before drawing up its own policy proposal.
“We do not have such a dire situation in Sweden today that we need to change the tracks in a rush. Game abuse is estimated at two percent of the population – it is large enough to be a social problem, but we have time to look at other countries. Then will come a bill,” said the minister.
Observers believe that the comments indicate changes are unlikely to come into force before 2016, although the government may still introduce a temporary legal fix to restrict advertising.