EU Challenges Sweden’s Online Gambling Laws

The European Union Commission has started a legal challenge to Sweden’s online gambling laws in Europe’s highest court saying the country’s laws violate EU laws of the free movement of services. The EU has also delayed approval of Ireland’s proposed online gambling tax.

The European Commission is challenging Sweden’s online gambling laws which restrict online gambling licenses to Swedish-based or state-owned operators.

The commission says the Swedish restrictions violate EU law on the free movement of services. The case has been referred to Europe’s highest court in two separate cases where the country will have to justify its regulations.

Sweden’s online gambling laws are seen as designed to protect the state-owned Svenska Spel gambling monopoly.

“Sweden is referred to the Court of Justice for imposing restrictions on the organization and promotion of online betting services in a way which is inconsistent with EU law,” the Commission said in a statement. “Changes to the Swedish gambling law in order to make it compliant with EU law have long been envisaged but never implemented.”

The cases focus on online poker games. Sweden’s rules for online gaming only allow Swedish-based operator’s licenses. Under EU law, member states can impose restrictions on some types of cross-border online gambling to prevent gambling addiction and crime, but only if the state can prove the restrictions are necessary.

The commission said the current laws have not prevented gambling addiction, which Sweden says was the goal of the regulations. The commission said the promotion and advertising of online services conducted by Svenska Spel has worked against combating problem gambling.

The commission also maintains that Sweden’s licensing system has not been applied in a systematic way and the country’s regulators did not adequately supervise their exclusive online gambling provider.

The Swedish government said in a statement that it was working “to speed up the work that has been carried out for a long time in order to find a licensing system that could be introduced in Sweden”.

In the second case, the commission said that Swedish regulators have tolerated the unauthorized offer and promotion of poker games on the black market.

Sweden was first asked to amend its betting laws in 2007 and was last warned about its inaction in November 2013.

In another matter, the commission extended review of Ireland’s proposed online gambling tax for several weeks. The tax is similar to the UK’s new point of consumption model and would require online providers to pay a 1% tax on revenue from Irish gamblers.

The commission has extended the ‘standstill’ period while it reviews the bill.

Officials in Ireland expect the review to be completed by the end of October and said the Irish parliament could pass the bill within a few weeks after the review. Officials expect the bill to raise about $32 million annually. Some of that revenue is slated to support the country’s horse and greyhound racing industries.