Sweden, Norway media outlets under fire over gambling advertising

sweden-norway-gambling-advertisingSweden‘s media outlets are hoping their pledge to self-regulate on the issue of gambling advertising will fend off a more strict intervention by the government.

Last month, Sweden’s government commenced its long-awaited inquiry into revising its gambling market. The process, which is expected to take 18 months, will examine all aspects of the gambling market, and is expected to bring an end to the monopoly currently held by the state-owned Svenska Spel.

Officially, it is illegal to advertise for gambling firms not named Svenska Spel, but Sweden’s media outlets have routinely flaunted this prohibition. The position of the Swedish newspaper guild Tidningsutvivarna (TU) is that the European Commission has ruled Svenska Spel’s monopoly to be illegal, leaving newspapers and other media channels free to accept advertising from international online gambling operators.

With Sweden’s government declaring that its new EC-compliant regime will consider whether to impose further restrictions on how gambling can be marketed, the TU has quickly adopted its own top-10 list of responsible recommendations for its members to follow. The list includes avoiding such no-nos as not clearly spelling out the full details of bonus offers, misleading punters as to the odds of winning or giving the impression that gambling is a risk-free proposition.

Across the border in Norway, the government is asking local media outlets to be on the alert for stealthy advertising by companies other than the Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto monopolies. Last December, the Ministry of Culture determined that unauthorized international online gambling sites were responsible for 90% of all TV betting ads.

Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv recently published an op-ed written by Atle Hamar, head of the Lotteritilsynet gaming regulatory body. Hamar said efforts to curb illegal advertising – including sending warning letters to offending operators and convincing YouTube to yank Norwegian-language videos by non-approved operators – have had an effect but these dastardly operators continue to find ways to get their message across.

Hamar pointed to a Champions League football broadcast on the Viasat 4 TV channel which featured a segment featuring commentator Morten Langil that was “presented by Unibet.” Hamar noted another football program on VGTV hosted by former footballer Bernt Hulsker, who is an “ambassador” for NordicBet. Hamar lamented that these and other broadcasters and celebrities “don’t’ care because there’s big money in gambling.”

Hamar said his group and Norway’s media regulator were examining the possibility of using the European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive to force broadcasters to toe the line.