Government Gambling Commission in Sweden Calls for Full iGaming by 2019

A panel commissioned by the Swedish government is calling for comprehensive reforms to expand the country’s current online gambling market, per a March 29 report by Reuters.

Over the last year and a half Sweden’s “Gambling License Enquiry” has studied the iGaming industry in hopes of improving the existing state-owned monopoly model. Known as Svenska Spel, that government-owned gambling enterprise currently controls the licensed online casino marketplace within Sweden.

HÃ¥kan Hallstedt, who serves as lead investigator for the Gambling License Enquiry and director general of the Lotteriinspektionen, or Swedish Gambling Authority, officially introduced the government’s proposal on March 31.

That plan would see Svenska Spel’s monopoly over online gambling ended, with Sweden shifting instead to the open-licensing scheme put in place by most major European nations.

Speaking to Sverige Radio, or Radio Sweden, Hallstedt offered a broad overview of his iGaming proposal, telling interviewers that “there will be one law to regulate everything.”

Asked about the potential for foreign-owned companies to apply for licenses, Hallstedt seemed receptive to the idea, saying “I think there are very good possibilities for that.”

According to statistics released by the Swedish Gambling Authority, the county’s iGaming marketplace sees only 77 percent of revenue directed to licensed and taxed platforms. Those include Storspiller.com, a recently launched online casino owned by Malta-based Kindred Group (formerly known as Unibet).

Despite maintaining an ostensible monopoly over iGaming, the Swedish government is acutely aware that offshore operators can serve Swedish customers with impunity.

To that end, minister for public administration Ardalan Shekarabi spoke to the government’s desire to shield Swedish iGaming spending from unlicensed operators, during a press conference to officially announce the commission’s findings:

“The government’s starting point in this work has concerned the state regaining control of the gambling market. This has been one of the most difficult inquiries of this mandate period.”

By instituting an annual tax of 18 percent on gross gaming revenues, the open licensing plan would invite offshore operators like 888 Holdings, Amaya, and others to apply for licensure.

Meanwhile, companies like Betsson and Kindred Group – both of which were founded in Sweden before relocating to Malta for tax purposes – would be given priority within the restructured marketplace.

Speaking with industry news outlet iGaming Business, a Kindred Group spokesperson outlined the company’s approach to the expected shakeup:

“After the proposal has been put forward the political process picks up. The strategy and default action by Kindred is to obtain local licenses in re-regulated markets.

The final decision however can’t be made until we know what set of regulations the Parliament will actually adopt in 2018. So far though it seems to be a reasonable regime being proposed.

Peter Alling, who serves as head of Nordic public affairs for Kindred Group, was far more bullish on the regulation agenda:

“We welcome the political consensus on the need for a modern gambling legislation, and the commitment that a new law will be in place before the next general election.

For re-regulation to be successful there is no room for major changes in the investigator’s proposal. Delays will endanger the whole reform.

We know that any attempt to regulate prices, limit the choice of games, or charge high taxes will have a negative effect on channelization.”

Hallstedt and the Swedish Gambling Authority have stated their objective to raise the “channelization” rate – or the percentage of players doing business with licensed platforms only – from 77 percent to between 90 and 95 percent.