Swedish media outlets lose appeal of gambling ad ruling


sweden-media-court-appeal-gambling-advertisingA Swedish court has dealt a blow to local media outlets’ ability to reap advertising revenue from internationally licensed online gambling sites.

On Monday, Sweden’s Lotteriinspektionen regulatory body celebrated a ruling by the Court of Appeal in Jönköping that upheld a lower court ruling that online gambling advertising in websites run by media outlets Aftonbladet and Expressen didn’t fall within the boundaries of freedom of expression.

The case originated in September 2013 after Lotteriinspektionen went after the two media outlets over their websites’ publication of links to international gambling sites. The newspapers challenged the ruling – and the SEK45k (US$4,940) fine the regulator sought to impose for every day the sites continued to display the links – based on their assertion that clickable links don’t constitute advertising.

The Court of Appeal ruling states that the sites’ links to international gambling operators were of a “pronounced commercial nature” and thus ineligible for protection under freedom of expression laws. The Court further ruled that the advertising restrictions detailed in Sweden’s 1994 Gambling Act didn’t contravene European Union law.

Swedish media outlets enjoyed record revenue from gambling advertisements in 2017, very little of which was spent promoting the (for now) state-run gambling monopoly Svenska Spel. But Lotteriinspektionen has become increasingly bold in warning local media outlets to curb their dealings with international gambling operators.

Lotteriinspektionen director general Camilla Rosenberg said the regulator assumes that “anyone who violates the promotion ban by linking to or promoting foreign gaming now ends with [the Court of Appeal ruling].”

In June, Swedish legislators approved a new Gambling Act that will take effect on January 1, 2019. The new rules will for the first time allow international operators to apply for Swedish online licenses and will further restrict advertising with operators not holding a local license.