The 3rd Annual iGaming Forum gaming conference has just finished up at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. This conference has traditionally attracted a senior (and extremely well dressed) crowd of Scandinavian online gaming professionals including operator CEOs, regulators, politicians, monopolies and Swedish media and this year was absolutely no different with close to 100 attendees.
The conference was based around a day of panels moderated by Michael Caselli and led by experienced individuals hand selected from the group of professionals mentioned above. Tables were set up in an elegant room in the Grand Hotel, networking breaks took place every few hours and dinner was organized for all delegates as an additional opportunity to socialize in a more relaxed environment.
CEO’s Pontus Lindwall of Betsson, Henrik Persson of Betsafe, Anders Invges of PAF and Thomas Petersen of Bet24 made up the popular CEO panel that kicked off the conference to a great start. Lindwall was quick to point out that despite the physical proximity, the Scandinavian market is quite fragmented and each government is going their own way in terms of tackling online gaming regulation. Seeing as many Scandinavian players look to companies licensed in foreign jurisdictions for the best offers and bonuses, Lindwall is pushing for Scandinavian countries to adopt a licensing system that would allow local operators to compete against those with a foreign license. Persson agreed and added that the license should include all games, and all four CEOs agreed that it is expensive to get into the Scandinavian market and operators who are looking for a piece of the pie should partner with an established company rather than going at it alone.
The legislative update was another popular panel featuring representatives from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, all providing an update on what is happening with igaming regulation within their respective nations. It looks like there is no clear position within Sweden but that the introduction of IP blocking is highly unlikely, Norway has no plan to change their laws and they are pleased with the results of IP blocking which has reduced the placement of impulsive bets, Finland will continue with monopolies and strict marketing rules and Denmark plans to liberalize and regulate online gambling in June. Quite a few people believe that if Denmark’s model proves to be successful, it could very well become the model for its neighbors and beyond.
Later in the afternoon Michael Caselli did an excellent job moderating the heated Swedish gaming policy panel that featured three members of the Swedish Parliament. It appears that the Swedish government is split into two camps- the moderates and liberals who are pushing for liberalization of online gambling and the conservative or “left wingers” who want the monopoly to remain.
Throughout the debate it was pretty clear to delegates that all parties want the same thing, 1)money and 2)the safest environment possible for their players to play online. The liberalization policy for online gambling would bring in tax dollars that are now lost to foreign operators, it would bring back highly skilled workers who have left Sweden to work in regulated jurisdictions such as UK and Malta, and there would be steps put into place to insure that players are safe. Seeing the same goals would be met by regulation, it appears that left wingers who are anti-liberalization and pro monopoly and have no real argument as to why the monopoly should remain other than the fact that it has always been that way.
By the end of the day delegates left the room acknowledging that it will be at least a few years before anything changes in Sweden, a lot of eyes will be on Denmark and Spain over the coming months to see if their models work, M&A are often talked about and dreamed about but can look better on paper than how they work in reality and that the regulation of online gambling across Europe is has always been, and will likely always be, one very complicated situation. This of course is nothing new for the informed, but the iGaming Forum continues to be a very well organized event that attracted the top professionals in the Scandinavian market under one roof for some very interesting and timely debates.