Swedish Poker Affiliate ProgramsI ran across this article in a newsletter I received today from BulletBusiness.com. The writer of this article is Cristofer Fjellner of the European Parliament and the article is an introduction to the Swedish gambling market.

I would have just linked to the article, but I got it in an email. Nonetheless we have a very active Swedish Poker Affiliate Forum, and I think this information is extremely helpful for new Swedish poker affiliates, or anyone trying to learn about the Swedish market.

Introduction to the Swedish gambling market

The Swedish gambling monopoly was introduced in 1934. The monopoly, “Tipstjänst”, was created to tackle the black gambling market and to provide the state with income in an administrative acceptable way. Due to the Swedish EU membership and the fast technical development, the Swedish gambling market regulation is now in great need of profound change. The Swedish Government has lost its ability to control gambling activities, the national legal framework is not consistent with EU-law and jobs in the sector as well as tax revenues are being lost under the current regulation.

Through the government owned company Svenska Spel, the Swedish Government provides 40 games, 6385 bookmakers, 4 casinos, 9791 slot machines (mainly placed in poorer areas with more social problems than average Sweden) and several bingo parlours. Last year Svenska Spel gave the government a profit of €520 million. €130 million went to Swedish sports associations, €160 000 to the national board of youth affairs and the remaining €369 million went to the treasuries department.

European Commission’s view of the Swedish gambling market

The European Commission is currently questioning two aspects of the Swedish gambling regulation: the monopoly on slot machines and the monopoly on sports betting. As far as sports betting is concerned the process has reached the last stage of the commissions infringement procedure. A reasoned opinion was sent to Sweden on 24 August 2007 in which the Commission demands changes to articles 9, 15, 38 and 45 of the sports betting provisions of the Swedish gambling legislation, since they are not compatible with the Swedish undertakings of article 49 in the EU Treaty. In the Swedish reply to this reasoned opinion the Swedish government claims that the current Swedish gambling regulation is line with EU legislation but points out that the government has issued a national gambling study to investigate the need for new regulatory change. This public investigation was issued by the present centre-right Government, “Alliance for Sweden”, and should be finalised 15 December 2008.

The government’s directives to this new national gambling investigation are implying that they would like Sweden to keep its gambling monopoly but might consider allowing licences for games that are considered less addictive and therefore less dangerous. The Swedish Government insists that gambling monopoly is there for social protection and that the revenue is only a positive side effect. The directives has faced criticism for being to detailed and focusing more on methods to sustain and strengthen the monopoly rather than true reform.

Advertising gambling products in Sweden

Along with the EC infringement procedure against Sweden there is interesting legal development in Sweden. Presently the most important legal gambling dispute in Sweden is concerning the ban on advertisement for foreign gambling operators. After the November 2003 Gambelli ruling five big Swedish newspapers ruled that the Swedish gambling monopoly was inconsistent with EU-law and therefore decided to published ads from private gambling companies established in other EU member states. This act was reported by Lotterinspektionen (The national gaming board), to the police and the papers have been fined €16000 for each ad they publish from gambling operator, other then the monopoly. This decision has been appealed and we will hopefully soon see a final ruling in national courts on this matter.

Conflicting monopoly regulation…

A common criticism of the Swedish gambling monopoly object to the Governments conflicts of interest with the current monopoly regulation. Today the government with in one and the same department is set to both regulate the market, operate the market and control the market. Swedish Conservatives would like to see the Governments role split so that it will focus on regulating and controlling the gambling market while private companies operate the market. The Conservatives also question the focus on social responsibility and believe it is financial motives rather than social that wants to keep the monopoly. An example of this is the fact that the Government spends 30 times more on gambling advertising and public affairs issues on the fight against gambling addiction.

The way forwards?

The first important question onward is when the European Commission continues its infringement process and takes the Swedish case to the European Court of Justice. The second is what will come out of the national gambling study and whether that will lead to proposals for legislation before the next general election in Sweden 2010.

Christofer Fjellner
Member of the European Parliament
Moderaterna (EPP-ED, SE)