Survival seems increasingly unlikely for Danish gaming monopoly Danske Spil: it is under attack by the and now also by state TV Broadcaster TV2, who wants a share of the large Danish gaming market.
The European Commission, led by Charlie McCreevy, issued a reasoned opinion against Denmark’s gaming monopoly which gave the country a chance to amend its ways before facing the European Court of Justice for protectionist practices. Danish authorities, however, have not only refused to open the gaming market but even made matters worse by proposing a “; which would ban financial transactions related to gaming.
In spite of the government’s adamant defense of its gaming monopoly, the Danish people continue to gamble in (illegal) sites other than Danske Spil. Danish Tax Minister Kristian Jensen is concerned about the lack of control on where the people are gambling, so he proposed a bid for opening the gaming market a few months ago, hoping to regulate (and tax) the gaming activities of the Danish people. His proposal met with enthusiastic support from major gaming companies, but so far it has not made it through the Danish legal system.
Enter TV2, a state owned broadcaster that claims to have found a legal loophole for online gaming: apparently current gaming laws – which protect Danske Spil’s monopoly tooth and nail – only cover games of chance, not skill. According to the Copenhagen Post, TV2 executive Lars Bernt announced the discovery of this loophole: "We've looked into the legalities of this together with gaming officials. They differentiate between games of chance, which are covered by the monopoly, and games of skill, which are not."
Having determined this, TV2 wasted no time in getting up a website that offers a number of games of skill in several categories: card games such as poker, whist and bridge; board games including backgammon, Ludo, chess and Yahtzee; and mind games such as the popular Sudoku. Players can set up accounts, deposit money and use it to play, and it is legal as long as the games are won through skill and not chance.
Minister Jensen has supported TV2’s initiative:"TV2 isn't providing gambling. It is a competition, and that is regulated by gaming laws." The legality of games is judged on an individual basis.
The Danish gaming market is a very attractive one, moving DK 11 billion a year (about $230 million.) Danish-based online companies are expected to start offering similar websites soon –Ladbrokes has already brought the Danish state to court because of its gaming monopoly, while Unibet showed enthusiastic public support for Minister Jensen’s recent proposal.