Sweden submits draft gambling legislation bill to EU Commission
Sweden is set for massive gambling reform in 2019, with new legislation in the works to issue licenses to international operators and properly open and regulate the global iGaming market. While the roadmap for finally allowing offshore casino sites to legally service Swedish citizens remains firm, the government has sent a copy of its draft gambling legislation to the European Commission for vetting.
Until recently, foreign online casino operators have been unable to legally service players in Sweden, as the gambling sector has been entirely controlled by state-owned companies such as Svenska Spel.
Swedish players are still accepted at many unlicensed offshore casino sites, however, which has created a massive unregulated market – so much so that figures released by the local Lotteriinspektionen gaming regulatory body revealed international online operators control one-quarter of the overall gambling market of Sweden.
The goal of the proposed draft bill and the overall legislative change, then, is to license these foreign casino operators instead, and “regain control of the Swedish gambling market,” according to Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi.
The draft (which you can read here) indicates the state government will continue to control local land-based casinos in the country, including electronic gaming machines and lotteries operated outside of said casinos. However, all online-related gambling products and services – online casinos, online bingo, online lotteries, sports betting, virtual sports – will no longer be controlled or limited by the state.
The legislation will also aim to deal with unauthorized operators by granting the Lotteriinspektionen the authority to compel internet service providers to block unlicensed domains and banks to block gambling-related transactions to any sites without formal licensing in Sweden. Going forward, any unlicensed online casino operator offering services to Sweden after the gambling reform becomes official will be fined or given prison sentences up to two years.
International gaming operators who legally and officially cater to Sweden must also base their gaming servers in the country. Some exceptions will be granted for those who hold licenses in other gaming jurisdictions the Swedish government approves of, or any operator which allows Swedish regulators remote access to audit and inspect their operations.
Successful applicants will have to pay 18% tax on all gaming revenue, and their licenses will be valid for up to five years. All customers of online casinos licensed in Sweden must be 18 years or older to legally use their services, and land-based casinos will impose a slightly higher age restriction, with only patrons aged 20 years or older allowed entry.
Any licensee that fails to uphold their obligations will be fined SEK 5,000 or up to 10% of their annual turnover.
The bill is subject to a formal standstill period which is scheduled to end on March 20, 2018. If the EU Commission finds no wrong with the draft proposal, it will request amendments from the Swedish government before the country can proceed any further with applications for gambling licenses, which they plan to start accepting from July 2018.
If all goes to plan, Sweden will officially open itself to the international gaming market on January 1, 2019.
Where can Swedish players gamble online?
It’s no surprise the Swedish government wants to bring the money back into the country rather than out, given the current significant market share international operators have captured even without any official presence. The legal reform will finally allow more popular and established international casinos into the country, offering more choice to locals without all the gray market non-sense or uncertainty attached.
In the meantime, with the reform still months away from enactment, Swedish players can continue to play at the best offshore online casino sites without any problems.
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