Understanding the Swedish Online Gambling LawPublished November 7, 2014 by Amir G
The European Commission's referral to court in the case of Sweden's online gambling laws is a last resort after years of consistent eschewal by the country.
Last month, the European Commission (EC) referred Sweden to the European Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, under the claim that Sweden's rules regarding organization and promotion of online betting were inconsistent with EU law. This move by the EC was unprecedented as no similar action was taken in the past against an EU member in regards to its online gambling legislation policies.
History of Problems
Sweden's problematic gambling laws and the tackle with the EC trace back to 2007 when the country was first asked to amend its betting laws and open its betting market to non-Swedish companies, a request which was refused by Sweden in August of that year.
Years of communications about the subject culminated in November 2013 when the EC asked Sweden to align its regulatory frameworks with the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU and its fundamental freedoms. The EC allowed Sweden to have regulated online gambling in its national border but only if the rules having to do with online gambling in the country were in line with EU law.
Legalized Monopoly and Promises
While the initial deadline for compliance was two weeks, Sweden has repeatedly extended it under the claim that it needed more time because it was working on changing the laws as requested, but the great patience by the EC was depleted with the legal action.
According to the EC, Swedish authorities have a very loose grip on the subject of online gambling: Specific criticism is aimed towards Svenka Spel, a domestic online poker operator which is essentially a monopoly, due to being the only licensed operator. It will be interesting to see what happens next now with EC referring to court, as the outcome could also have long range implications for online gaming regulation in other EU member states.