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Sweden's pivot from gambling monopoly to licensing leader

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Join us as we discuss Sweden's journey from a staunch monopoly to a leading multi-license online gambling jurisdiction.

Today Sweden is one of the world's leading online gambling regulatory jurisdictions. They have managed to strike a balance between protecting the local consumer from gambling harm while allowing enough leeway for online casinos to be profitable.

This was not always the case, as historically, Sweden was a monopoly where the state tightly controlled all forms of gambling. Despite the commercial success of Swedish licensing, Finland and Norway maintain state-owned control over local gambling sites.

What was pre-regulation gambling like in Sweden?

Swedish culture has a long history with gambling reaching back to the Viking era when they gambled on dice and board games. As is often the case, this very love affair leads to government intervention.

When this occurs, gambling is either banned or monopolised. Here Sweden opted for a monopoly as they intended to protect against bad faith operators, not gambling itself.

In the 1930s, sports betting was run by a private company named Tipstjänst. The Swedish government licensed them as the country's only betting company to neuter illegal bookmakers. Tipstjänst later branched out into offering games of chance by becoming the state casino. During this period, the state lottery was owned and operated by Penninglotteriet.

In 1997 Sweden merged these independent operations into a single entity, Svenska Spel, to address the emergence of online gambling in Sweden. This body would now offer local gamblers access to online casinos, poker, bingo, sports betting, race betting, scratch cards and lottery games. They also controlled the country's four land-based casinos.

What set Swedish regulations apart?

While more gambling-forward markets like the United Kingdom began licensing online casinos as early as 2005, Sweden maintained its monopoly until 2019.

Despite years of pressure to open its borders to legal online gambling, it was not until June 2018 that the country issued a revised Gambling Act that deregulated the industry and allowed for licensing.

Once the new Gambling Act came into force, it was clear that the Swedish government had used its time well. The newly regulated market addressed all critical requirements of the industry, such as which Swedish casino games were allowed, how license fees would be handled, what safer gambling protocols needed to be implemented and much more.

It was also one of the first regulatory jurisdictions that did not suffer from an impotent Gambling Authority.

Spelinspektionen not only had jurisdiction over approving licenses and managing the collection of fees, but it could also revoke licenses and impose penalties without needing extra-governmental approval.

While allowing international gambling operators to become licensed providers of games of chance has taken many years, the end result is a well-crafted and highly functional system.

What do Swedish licenses entail?

The Swedish gambling authority, Spelinspektionen, is an incredibly active body and important for gambling regulations in Sweden. They are known to pursue and shut down illegal online casinos, hold operators to account when there are player concerns over fairness and payouts and freely revoke the licenses of bad actors.

Here are the highlights of Sweden's licensed gambling sector:

  • International operators could be licensed for the first time in 20 years
  • There are six unique licenses catering to the various gambling markets
  • Illegal operators are actively closed, leading to increased channelisation
  • Licensed operators can advertise online, in print, on television and on the radio
  • Licensed operators gained access to local banking options

Swedish players enjoyed the following benefits:

  • Access to a broader range of games of chance and betting markets
  • Access to global eSports gambling
  • Increased safety and guarantees of fair play
  • Access to some of the best brands in the world in local language and currency
  • The ability to play without registering first using Sweden's Bank ID technology

These factors all create a fantastic environment of trust and safety for players, leading to increased revenues for licensed operators. These revenues, in turn, result in more significant investment in the region and a desire to innovate. This balance creates a win-win for all parties concerned.

Sweden's turbulent 20s

With the onset of the pandemic, the Swedish state again stepped in to protect the populace. However, some feel they may have overstepped. With the potential for an increase in problem gambling, the Gambling Authority limited new player bonuses to 100 Kronor (€10) and implemented a weekly deposit/loss limit of 5000 Kronor (€470).

They also began investigating the design of games of chance and ruled that video slots had to spin for a minimum of 2.5 seconds to allow players time to think about their actions.

They also disabled the auto-spin feature and banned multi-table casino games for the same reason.

2022 saw Sweden lift these temporary restrictions. However, the 100 Kronor new player bonus limit and a 4000 Kronor per week loss limit on land-based slot machines still apply.

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