Sweden starts the clock on ending Svenska Spel’s gambling monopoly

sweden-gambling-monopoly-borrowed-timeSweden’s gambling monopoly appears to be living on borrowed time after the government announced long awaited plans to shake up the country’s gambling market.

A year ago, the European Commission announced it was taking Sweden to the European Union’s top court due to it having failed to respond to earlier criticisms of the country’s restrictive gambling laws. Late last month, Sweden’s Ministry of Finance finally responded by announcing it was launching an inquiry into what a revised gambling landscape would look like.

Saying it was time to “adapt Swedish legislation to the conditions of an international and easily accessible gaming market,” the Ministry laid out 18 points that would guide the inquiry, among them the future role of the state-owned Svenska Spel gambling monopoly. Svenska Spel is currently the only company licensed to offer online betting to Swedish gamblers, although its limited palette of options has helped steer punters to any number of international gambling sites.

The Ministry’s directive says the new betting market will be “characterized by competition between equal players” and thus it’s necessary to consider “whether the state will own and control gaming companies.” Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary general of Sweden’s Association of Online Gambling Operators, believes the government has at long last committed itself to privatizing Svenska Spel.

Svenska Spel CEO Lennart Käll claims to welcome the government’s inquiry, in part because the government has pledged that, under a new licensed operator system, steps would be taken to prevent operators not holding a Swedish license from taking wagers from or marketing products to Swedish punters. Käll has long vented about operators such as Unibet getting away with highly public branding opportunities with Swedish sporting events.

Sweden is set to hold a general election in September 2018 and the plan is to draft, revise and approve new gambling legislation before Swedes go to the polls. The Ministry hopes to have concrete proposals laid out by March 31, 2017, after which industry stakeholders will have their chance to comment. Revisions to the legislation will take place that autumn before the final bill is submitted to parliament by December 2017.